2016 Investigation Finds Evidence of Ballot Harvesting Connected to McCrae Dowless
CHARLOTTE, NC – The man at the center of an investigation into election fraud paid people in Bladen County to collect absentee ballots in 2016, according to documents released Wednesday.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement released the 279 pages that show McCrae Dowless, who’s accused of running an illegal ballot harvesting operation during the 2018 election cycle may have used similar tactics in 2016.
Witnesses in 2016 say Dowless paid them to collect completed absentee ballots and return them to Dowless.
“We were supposed to get paid $225 per 20 people who signed up,” wrote one witness, “we would receive half of the $225 when the request forms were turned in, and the other half once we returned the signed ballots back to him.”
The witnesses also say Dowless would “push” certain candidates. They wrote he would give them sample ballots to show voters with specific names already filled in.
Linda Baldwin, who spoke at a town hall in Bladen County Tuesday night says she was targeted.
“He told me that he was a college student and that he was getting paid for getting people to fill out absentee ballots,” said Baldwin, “the young man told me that he had to have a witness, so he would have to take the unsealed ballot with him.”
The documents also show that Dowless tried to interfere with the 2016 investigation by coaching witnesses about how to handle the state investigator.
A text from one witness to Dowless reads, “Hey McCrae, that weird number was the investigators. They called me again today. they want to meet with me in the morning. I’m scared and i don’t remember half of what we are supposed to say. I’ve never been investigated for anything.”
In 2018, Mark Harris, the apparent winner of the 9th District, hired Dowless to do absentee ballots and get-out-the-vote operations. The state board has not certified the results of the election citing ballot irregularities and the investigation into Dowless.
Dowless’ attorney released a statement Tuesday saying her client, ” has not violated any state or federal campaign laws and current ongoing investigations will prove the same.”
No action was taken against Dowless in 2016.
An evidentiary hearing concerning the 2018 election cycle is scheduled for January 11th in Raleigh. State investigators, candidates, and witnesses will all have the opportunity to testify.