Today, North Carolina election officials began their hearings on the scandal-wracked electoral race for that state’s Ninth district, and the outlook does not look good for the party that made “electoral integrity” one of their signature issues.
Republican candidate Mark Harris is accused of hiring a man named McCrae Dowless to manipulate the absentee ballots in his race against Democrat Dan McReady, which he currently leads by just over 900 votes out of more than 275,000 cast.
At the outset of today’s meeting, the head of the North Carolina Board of Elections announced that her agency’s investigation produced evidence of a coordinated and unlawful absentee ballot scheme.
In her opening remarks, Strach detailed an alleged ballot-tampering scheme operated by Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative in rural Bladen County who she said hired workers to falsify absentee ballot request forms, collect absentee ballots and falsify witness certifications in an apparent violation of state election laws.
The alleged scheme was coordinated and well resourced, Strach said. She also said that security at the elections office in Bladen County, where some of the alleged ballot tampering took place, had been insufficient.
Dowless allegedly paid workers $150 for every 50 absentee ballot request forms they collected and $125 for every 50 absentee ballots collected, Strach said. What’s more, Red Dome, a consulting firm hired by Harris’s campaign, paid Dowless $131,275 between July 3, 2017, and Nov. 7, 2018.
The GOP operative’s accomplice, Lisa Britt, followed up that bombshell with another one, revealing to the election board that Dowless even tried to tamper with her testimony in today’s hearing — and she has the receipts. Huffington Post‘s Sam Levine reports:
News: Britt says Dowless gave her this piece of paper on Thursday with instructions on how to testify. It tells Britt to plead the 5th amendment pic.twitter.com/n0ShAutgIf
— Sam Levine (@srl) February 18, 2019
Britt witnessed an unusually large number of absentee ballots and says that she got paid $3-4 per ballot per block of 50 ballots collected on behalf of Dowless for his Republican client.
Ironically, Lisa Britt also admitted that she committed voter fraud personally, since as a felony still on probation, she shouldn’t have been allowed to vote in the last election, but did anyhow while working as a GOP operative.
This woman, Lisa Britt, is giving testimony right now about an explosive absentee ballot theft ring in North Carolina. She admitted taking absentee ballots for money and discarding them. She was urged to plead the 5th and not testify. This is madness— democracy is up for sale. pic.twitter.com/erK7wEQpQ1
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) February 18, 2019
Mark Harris won 61% of the absentee ballots in one county, even though only 19% of the voters who turned them in were Republicans, which is a screaming red flag since he’d have had to win a tremendous amount of Democratic support far beyond what the other results suggest.
The Republican candidate had frequent contact with Dowless, including a “pastorly relationship,” yet claims no knowledge of the fraud he paid his operative to carry out.
It would take three votes by North Carolina’s Board of Elections to certify Harris the victor of the tainted election and four votes to order a new election. Because the partisan makeup of the board is 3-2 with a Democratic majority, that means one of its members will have to cross the aisle to get a firm result after today’s hearing.
If the board remains deadlocked along partisan lines, then the race will be certified under North Carolina state law, but House Democrats have already come out against seating Harris because of the flawed election.
That’s important because the Constitution and the Federal Contested Elections Act gives the House the ultimate power to decide the race between Harris and Dan McCready.
Republicans love to whine and fearmonger about “voter fraud” when it comes to keeping people of color from voting but have no qualms about dabbling in it themselves. The real problem in American politics is electoral fraud and gerrymandering of political districts.
North Carolina is a poster child for racial gerrymandering and today’s state Board of Elections hearing just revealed that their state Republican Party is deeply involved in a cover-up for their election fraud schemes.