Over 1,000 absentee ballots from likely Democratic voters may have been destroyed in the disputed US House race in North Carolina’s 9th District.
“You’re looking at several thousand, possibly 2,000 absentee ballot requests from this most recent election. About 40 percent of those, it appears, at this point may not have been returned,” Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told CNN.
The news comes after the North Carolina Elections Board blocked the results of the race from being certified earlier this month. Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by just over 900 votes in the race.
Elections officials have received affidavits reporting that people were sent to their homes to illegally collect their mail-in absentee ballots in rural Bladen and Roberson Counties, where a large number of ballots were requested but never sent in.
It’s likely that a new election will be called in the race. Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer warned that Harris would not be seated until the issue is resolved.
“The allegation is of serious fraudulent activity on behalf of the Republican administrator — one or more — dealing with primarily absentee ballots. ... So there’s a very substantial question,” Hoyer told said at a press briefing.
Longrunning scam exposed: The man at the center of the fraud evidence is Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for the Harris campaign through the firm Red Dome, which was founded by Harris’ top strategist. Two women came forward to say they were paid by Dowless to collect absentee ballots.
Dowless worked on absentee ballots for Harris in Bladen County. In the primary, Harris received 437 of 456 absentee-by-mail votes. When Dowless worked for Todd Johnson in the 2016 primary when he faced Harris and incumbent Robert Pittinger, it was Johnson who received 98 percent of all absentee-by-mail ballots.
In the general election, just eight people signed off dozens of absentee ballots, including three people who signed as witnesses on more than 40 ballots each.
Calls for new election: The Charlotte Observer joined calls for a new election in the race as evidence of fraud mounts.
“Voters in the 9th District deserve the confidence that their election was free from fraud. North Carolina statute supports it. The evidence already demands it. The Board of Elections should start the election over,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.