The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer — the largest paper by circulation in both North and South Carolina — is now demanding a new election in the 9th Congressional District.

Mark Harris, the Republican running in that race, narrowly won the November 6 election by just a few hundred votes over Democrat Dan McCready. However, new details that emerged following the election show that convicted felon Leslie McCrae Dowless (convicted of felony perjury in 1990) may have tampered with absentee ballots on behalf of Harris’ campaign, and the North Carolina elections board declined to certify the results of the election given the allegations of election fraud.

The number of absentee ballots requested but not returned was abnormally higher in the 9th Congressional District — which encompasses the area south and east of Charlotte — compared to other North Carolina counties. Allegations include a woman knocking doors in the district and telling voters she was collecting absentee ballots. In some cases, she collected ballots without those ballots being signed by the voter, stuffing them into an unsealed envelope, and leaving, saying she would fill out any ballot that was incomplete.

According to Vox, one voter overheard a conversation in which several people mentioned that Dowless would be paid a $40,000 bonus if Harris won the election. In a sworn affidavit, one man said that during the primary, in which Harris upset incumbent Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger, Dowless told him he had 80 people working for him in his efforts to rally the absentee vote for Harris, and that he only accepted cash payments.

“Questions remain about how much Harris knew about the work being done on his behalf. Both he and his chief consultant, Andy Yates, contend they weren’t aware of any election fraud in the 9th District, but Dowless was well-known as a dicey figure in N.C. political circles,” the Observer’s editorial board wrote. “He’s a convicted felon who had been investigated for similar fraud in 2016, and he even was featured nationally in a This American Life episode. Harris, at the least, should have seen the smoke.”

“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 editorial board added.

Ironically, Robert Higdon, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, has been busy prosecuting legal immigrants for voting when they didn’t even know they were ineligible, according to HuffPost. The outlet reported that most of the immigrants prosecuted are legal permanent U.S. residents (green card holders) who were confused about their vote registration status.

Higdon, who was appointed to his position by President Trump in 2017, stated that immigrants voting by mistake are “a threat to national security and undermines the principles, integrity, and fairness of all government institutions, programs, and our national immigration system.” Defendants will face prison time and fines if convicted. HuffPost reporter Nick Baumann tweeted that Higdon’s son actually worked for the Mark Harris campaign.

So far, Higdon’s office has not announced any charges in relation to the allegations of ballot tampering in the 9th Congressional District. Election officials in North Carolina have not announced a new election as of this writing.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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