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GOP operative at the center of election fraud investigation reportedly paid woman to collect ballots

UPDATE: A second woman says she too was paid by the same operative. Both say they didn't mail in the ballots they collected.

Leslie McCrae Dowless (right), a convicted felon hired by the Harris campaign. He is at the center of an unfolding election fraud scandal. Credit: WSOCTV
Leslie McCrae Dowless (right), a convicted felon hired by the Harris campaign. He is at the center of an unfolding election fraud scandal. Credit: WSOCTV

As investigators continue to figure out what exactly transpired on Election Day in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district — where Republican candidate Mark Harris increasingly appears to be the beneficiary of one of the largest cases of election fraud in U.S. history — one name keeps coming up: Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr.

Dowless, who goes by McCrae, is a fixture in local North Carolina politics. He was elected vice chair of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District, and has been attached to numerous Republican campaigns throughout the years, including the Harris campaign in 2018.

But Dowless is also a well-known convict. He served a six month prison sentence in the 1990s for a felony fraud conviction, and was indicted for perjury. His criminal record stretches back to the 1980s, and he has been implicated in previous schemes to illegally collect unreturned absentee ballots, most recently in 2016.

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On Monday, local television station WSOCTV caught up with Ginger Eason, one of the canvassers whose signature frequently appeared on accepted absentee ballots as a witness. She told a reporter that she was paid between $75 and $100 per week by Dowless to pick up absentee ballots from around Bladen County.

“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots,” Eason told the network.

Eason also admitted to not mailing in the absentee ballots she collected. Instead, she delivered them directly to Dowless.

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The station also tracked down Dowless himself, but he refused to answer any questions about his role in the unfolding scandal.

Harris has denied any wrongdoing, and continues to demand the state’s board of elections certify the results of Election Day. The nine-member panel has thus far refused, and will conduct an evidentiary hearing in two weeks to determine how to proceed. Though rare, the state could call for a new election entirely.


UPDATE December 4, 2018 4:30 PM: WSOCTV has continued to track down  the individuals whose names were frequently listed as signed witnesses on absentee ballots. A second woman in the district, Cheryl Kinlaw, told the station that she too was paid by Dowless to collect absentee ballots in the 9th congressional district.

Like Ginger Eason on Monday, Kinlaw says she delivered the ballots she collected directly to Dowless himself rather than mailing them in.