The Grand Old Party (GOP) finally got its voting scandal, but it’s not unfolding the way they had hoped. The results of the 9th Congressional district in North Carolina, in which a GOP candidate won, are now in doubt…and the prospect of a do-over election is gaining steam.
A sitting Republican may have been unseated by illegal voting practices as well. Back in May, sitting GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger lost a primary race against Mark Harris, a pastor from the Charlotte suburbs. The narrow race was lost when Harris racked up 437 absentee mail-in votes, while Pittenger received just 17 mail-in votes.
Pittenger raised alarms with the North Carolina Republican Party, alleging potential fraud. His complaints, however, fell upon deaf ears and the state party quickly threw its support behind Harris. Turns out a political operative by the name of Leslie McCrae Dowless may have been trying to illegally influence the election. Dowless had run get-out-the-vote efforts for Harris.
Dowless is well known in the North Carolina political community for his ability to mobilize voters to vote through the mail. Except, he may have been harvesting said votes illegally. Dowless has been under investigation since 2016 but Harris decided to go ahead and hire him anyway.
Dowless had previously approached Pittenger, but the Congressman declined to hire him. That decision may have been the morally correct one, but it came back to bite Pittenger anyways. Without the allegedly illegal support of Dowless, Harris may not have won the primary in the first place. Pittenger’s campaign staff even advised him to hire Dowless but have him do no work. Doing so would have kept Dowless from supporting Pittenger’s opponent.
Focus has since shifted to the 9th Congressional race between Harris and Democrat challenger Dan McCready, who has since withdrawn his concession. Harris is ahead by just 905 votes in unofficial returns. However, the North Carolina Election Board is refusing to certify the election, citing irregularities.
Speaking on the issue, McCready stated: “I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines just to come home to N.C. and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote. Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when.”
Apparently, Dowless had set up a network of people who worked to collect absentee-by-mail votes en masse. This is illegal under North Carolina law. The state Board of Elections and Wake County District Attorney have now launched investigations into Dowless’s efforts.
The primary focus is on Bladen County, which had the highest share of mail-in votes in the 9th district. Besides illegally collecting votes, some believe that Dowless may have discarded votes and had his own staffers will out absentee votes. Obviously, it’s illegal to tamper with someone else’s votes or to fill out absentee ballots in their name.
Apparently, people showed up at voters’ doors, offering to collect absentee ballots, including unsealed and not completely filled out ballots. Investigators are now looking at ballots to determine if there are any irregularities.
Should the State Board find that votes were tampered with or illegally collected, it could call for a new election. The North Carolina GOP has expressed support for a new election if irregularities are found. Previously, the GOP had tried to paint efforts to hold a new election as a Democrat effort to steal the election.
For Republicans, the incident is certainly embarrassing. President Donald Trump has alleged voter fraud on numerous occasions, claiming illegal immigrants and others were allowed to vote. No evidence of such practices has emerged. Now, the GOP has their voter scandal but it turns out that a GOP operative, not Democrats, may have been trying to rig the vote.