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7 charged in Bladen absentee ballot investigation have court dates set

Seven people, including Leslie McCrae Dowless, who were indicted Tuesday on alleged absentee ballot irregularities turned themselves in Wednesday at the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, according to a news release from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.

The first court appearance for all of the suspects is Monday in Wake County, the law enforcement agency said.

The SBI lists the following people who were arrested:

McCrae Dowless

Leslie McCrae Dowless: Two counts felony obstruction of justice, perjury, felony solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot.

Lisa M. Britt: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice, possession of absentee ballot and voting as a felon. Set $10,000 unsecured bond.

Ginger S. Eason: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot. Set $10,000 unsecured bond.

Woody D. Hester: Two counts conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot. Set $10,000 unsecured bond.

James R. Singletary: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot. Set $10,000 unsecured bond.

Jessica H. Dowless: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and swearing falsely. Set $10,000 unsecuredbond

Kelly Hendrix: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot. Set $10,000 unsecured bond.

Those indicted Tuesday were charged in connection to the investigation of voting irregularities in the 2018 U.S. House District 9 race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. The district includes Bladen County.

Dowless was indicted in February on three counts of charges of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballot.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told the News & Observer of Raleigh earlier this week that additional indictments may follow.

“This is a large investigation,” Freeman told the newspaper. “It involves multiple election cycles, multiple individuals alleged to be involved in this election fraud.”

Harris led McCready by 905 votes based on unofficial returns following last November’s election. However, the State Board of Elections would not certify the result and an investigation followed. Dowless worked for Harris during the 2018 election. Harris denied knowledge of Dowless’ alleged action of collecting absentee ballots from people.

In February, the State Board called for a new election for the District 9 seat. McCready is running again and is opposed by Republican Dan Bishop. The special election is scheduled for September 10.

The absentee ballot fraud that occurred in the 9th Congressional District effectively disenfranchised voters in that district, according to the indictments.

“North Carolina voters should be confident that state officials will continue to be vigilant and pursue any individuals or organizations that attempt to undermine our elections,” said Karen Brinson Bell, who is the executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Democracy is best served by holding those who attempt to thwart it accountable.”

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