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North Carolina ballot fraud probe: GOP operative faces fresh charges

Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, NC.
Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, North Carolina. Photo: Justin Kase Conder for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Republican political operative in North Carolina accused of ballot tampering in a 2018 congressional election was hit with new felony charges on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Leslie McCrae Dowless was already facing obstruction and conspiracy charges relating to an investigation into North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District 2018 election. That probe found a "coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme" in 2 counties.

What's new: Dowless was just indicted along with 7 alleged co-conspirators. He faces 2 counts of felony obstruction of justice, perjury, solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and illegal possession of absentee ballots, according to NPR.

Background: The ballot-fraud inquiry centered around the campaign of Republican U.S. House candidate Mark Harris. He held an unofficial 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent Dan McCready. But the North Carolina State Board of Elections declined to certify Harris as a winner because of concerns of voting irregularities.

  • The board ordered a new election to be held after its probe found that Dowless — who was working on behalf of Harris — had allegedly coordinated an "unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme," including efforts of a cover-up.
  • Dowless was arrested in February and charged with 3 counts of obstruction of justice and 2 each of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballots, per the Washington Post. He's previously denied any wrongdoing to the Charlotte Observer.

What's next: McCready is up against Republican Dan Bishop in the new election this fall, after Harris — who was not mentioned in the indictment — chose not to run in the new election, per AP.

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