The article down-column, "State Board of Elections Refuses To Certify Congressional Race, NC-9," was pure speculation on my part (brought on -- in my defense -- by SBOE member Joshua Malcolm's choice of words and general mysteriousness). I was largely wrong (though accurate in my background facts from a 2016 scandal in Bladen County). I had gone researching and immediately turned up the name Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. He was charging others with absentee ballot fraud in 2016, and in 2018, he appears to have followed that same piper.
Joe Bruno, in the field reporting for WSOC, has been a veritable developer of leads (his Twitter feed is especially lively) and hence indispensable in understanding this developing sinkhole. Don't know about other regional TV stations (I watch little network TV), but WSOC has been comprehensive in its coverage.
First, Joe Bruno's Twitter feed:
A spokesperson for NCSBE says shortly after the election, a state investigator seized absentee ballot request forms and absentee ballot container envelopes (the envelopes that ballots are returned in), but not the ballots themselves from Bladen County
Washington Post: "The investigation appears to be focused on Bladen County, but an official in Robeson County said that county also has been contacted"
BREAKING- I have obtained 6 sworn affidavits related to the #NC09 investigation. A team of a dozen @wsoctv employees and I working on this. Huge allegations and potential implications.
The affidavits center around a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. He is well known in Bladen County political circles. Attempts to get in contact with Dowless have so far been unsuccessful
Two of the affidavits reference Dowless working for the Harris campaign. (Harris camp hasn't responded) One witness claims to have overheard someone saying Dowless would get a $40,000 bonus if Harris won. Another witness claims Dowless told him he doesn't do checks, just cash
In a sworn affidavit a witness claims Dowless told him he had 80 people working for him and that he was doing "absentee" for Harris. This conversation was said to have happened on April 25 before the primary.
|Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. on right.|
His brother in Mark Harris Tshirt
Photo Joe Bruno
Maybe most significant of all, because it claims insider info on the Bladen Co. BOE:
A woman claims the tape showing election results was run after the polls closed and viewed by officials who were not judges. She also claimed the absentee mail in ballots were distinctive.. and a large number from the Bethel precinct
The NCSBOE will be meeting this morning via teleconference. The certification/decertification of the Harris-McCready congressional race is on the agenda. The NCSBOE has every right under state law to mandate a new election "if it finds that the race was tainted, a move likely to be challenged in court." NCGOP has promised to sue (Kirk Ross in the WashPost).
To complicate the matter further: The present state board and all local county boards will be dissolved as of midnight next Monday, December 3, and the board structure will revert to 3-2 Democratic majority on the state board and 2-1 Democratic majority on all county boards. That's the effect of a three-judge ruling reached last October 16, 2018. Implementation of that order was put on hold until after the election, but is in force now.