Speed Reads

2018 midterms (cont.)

Woman says GOP consultant paid her to illegally collect absentee ballots in North Carolina congressional race

North Carolina's Board of Elections has refused to certify the results of the U.S. House race in the 9th Congressional District, citing irregularities with mail-in absentee ballots. Those irregularities appears to center around a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless, a campaign consultant and the elected vice chairman of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Republican Mark Harris, who appeared to have defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, hired Dowless as "an independent contractor who worked on grassroots for the campaign, independent of the campaign," Harris strategist Andy Yates told The Charlotte Observer. Dowless, who goes by McCrae, was paid by Red Dome Group, a firm founded by Yates that was dissolved in mid-2017, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office. Dowless was convicted of felony perjury and felony insurance fraud in the 1990s and served more than six months of a two-year sentence.

Dowless appears to have organized "a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board," WSOC-TV reports. He declined to answer questions from WSOC's Joe Bruno, but Bruno did get on-camera confirmation from a woman named Ginger Eason that Dowless paid her to pick up absentee ballots and deliver them to him. She said Dowless did not inform her that collecting absentee ballots violated North Carolina law.

Eason was among a handful of people who signed as witnesses on dozens of absentee ballots, according to WSOC's tally — one of the several red flags from Bladen County's absentee returns. Lisa Britt, who witnessed at least 42 absentee ballots and apparently doesn't live at the address she listed on the ballots, is Dowless' step-daughter, according to journalist Judd Legum. You can learn more about the irregularities at The Charlotte Observer and in WSOC's report below. Peter Weber