The North Carolina Board of Elections held a fourth day of hearings Thursday to get to the bottom of one of the largest cases of potential election fraud in modern U.S. history.
Republican candidate Mark Harris emerged from the 2018 midterms with a lead of just under 1,000 votes over Democratic contender Dan McCready. But the Board of Elections refused to certify the results after allegations of ballot tampering emerged late last year.
A GOP operative contracted to work for the Harris campaign is said to have paid several people to tamper with absentee ballots in at least two counties that comprise the 9th congressional district in the southern part of the state.
Until this week, Harris and his campaign maintained that any impropriety was entirely the fault of McCrae Dowless, a well-known Republican operative who was repeatedly accused of mishandling or altering ballots during several local and state elections stretching back years. In a televised interview last month, Harris told a local news network that no-one had ever raised red flags about Dowless before his campaign hired him.
On the stand today John Harris testified he told his dad about concerns regarding Dowless. Here's part of my interview with Mark Harris asking him if anyone raised red flags. #nc09 #ncpol Full interview here: https://t.co/0lEyS6ztuS pic.twitter.com/34mIcgT5DR
— Tim Boyum (@TimBoyumTV) February 20, 2019
On Wednesday, Harris’ own son torpedoed that narrative, testifying that he did, in fact, warn his father well in advance of Election Day about Dowless’s past. And late Wednesday night, text messages sent by Harris himself were turned over to the state, shedding additional light on just how much he knew about Dowless.
In a message sent in March 2017 to former judge Marion Warren, Harris asks for an introduction to “the ‘key people’ that can help me carry that part of the county in a future US House NC-9 race.”
Harris tried to capture the Republican nomination in 2016, but was thwarted in part by the curiously strong performance of Todd Johnson in the absentee ballot count in Bladen County.
“You know the political and financial connections better than anyone else I would know, including the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term, had I known, and he had been helping us,” added Harris.
The mere disclosure of the existence of the text message prompted a strong rebuke from the state Board, which had previously been told by the Harris camp it was in possession of all communications pertaining to the case.
“The timing of your disclosure raises significant and material concerns regarding the Committee’s compliance and candor prior to, and now during, the hearing,” said Josh Lawson, general counsel for the state board. Members of the board called the 11th hour disclosure a “disgrace,” and questioned the Harris camp’s explanation for having failed to fully comply with the subpoena for documents filed weeks ago.