N.C. election panel outlines 'unlawful ballot scheme' in midterm race

19 Février, 2019, 06:22 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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 Steve Harrison  WFAE

A Republican operative in North Carolina paid individuals to obtain absentee ballots from voters and then discard them or make changes in order to secure a win for two candidates according to the state's elections director.

While the congressional and sheriff's races were nearly always marked by voters who turned in unsealed ballots, Britt said she would fill in down-ballot local races - favoring Republicans - to prevent local elections board workers from suspecting Dowless' activities.

A North Carolina woman who last fall rounded up unsealed and incomplete ballots in the country's last unsettled congressional election says the organizer of the ballot-collection effort paid her about $125 for every 50 ballots she gathered. They operated in both Bladen and Robeson counties, submitting as many as 1,249 ballots overall in the general election.

Britt testified that she did not believe Harris had any knowledge of the operation.

Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless conducted an absentee ballot operation from April 2017 up to the 2018 elections while working for Red Dome Consulting, a firm hired by the Harris campaign, Strach said. Republicans want Harris certified as the victor and view the complaints as a conspiracy.

North Carolina elections officials, as well as local and state prosecutors, are investigating allegations of fraud that could involve suppressing or tampering with absentee ballots.

"As long as we all stick together we'll all be fine, because they don't have anything on us", she said he told them.

The letter seen on the text said, "I can tell you that I haven't done anything wrong in the election and McCrae Dowless has never told me to do anything wrong, and to my knowledge he has never done anything wrong, but I am taking the 5th Amendment because I don't have an attorney and I feel like you will try to trip me up".

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Investigators found Dowless tried to avoid detection by instructing those who worked for him to deliver ballots to the post office in small batches and to ensure the same colour ink was used for forged witness signatures, Strach said.

Ms. Britt said Mr. Harris was not personally involved.

Britt's mother said she overheard a phone conversation in which Harris and Dowless before November's election discussed the Republican's strong showing.

Strach was expected to touch on the unreturned ballots later in the hearing.

Shortly after the 2018 midterms, the state board of elections voted in a bipartisan manner to delay certification of the race and instead to begin an investigation.

Dowless and Harris both attended Monday's hearing in Raleigh.

Four of the five members on the board - composed of three Democrats and two Republicans - would need to agree a new election is necessary.

If that doesn't happen, McCready's lawyers said state officials should send their findings to the Democrat-dominated U.S. House and let it decide whether Harris should be seated - arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the House authority over the elections and qualifications of its members.

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