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By Erin Smith

McCrae Dowless has been indicted by a grand jury in Raleigh and arrested on several charges resulting from his handling of absentee ballots in the 2016 general election and 2018 primary election. 

According to the NC State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI), Dowless was arrested without incident at his Bladenboro residence on Wednesday morning. He was transported to the Wake County Detention Center where he appeared before a magistrate and was given a $30,000 secured bond. A court date of Thursday, February 28, is shown in court records. 

“Agents brought Dowless to the Wake County Detention Center where he has been charged with three counts of felony obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots.  Several other people face charges as a result of the investigation,” said NC SBI Public information Officer Anjanette Grube. 

She referred further questions regarding the arrest and further arrests to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Also, NC State Board of Elections Director Kimberly Strach issued a statement regarding the arrest of Dowless.

“These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud elections in North Carolina,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director. “Today is a new and better day for elections in our state.”

The State Board will send staff members to Bladen and Robeson counties ahead of the new election in the 9th Congressional District to monitor and assist with the elections process. The State Board will meet Monday, March 4, 2019, at 1 p.m. to set a calendar for a new election in the 9th Congressional District and to discuss County Board of Elections appointments. The State Board of Elections has not yet appointed the new five member panel for the Bladen County Board of Elections pending the investigation into the election irregularities.

The NC State Board of Elections conducted an evidentiary hearing last week into the matter. In testimony last week before the NC State Board of Elections, it was revealed that Dowless’ efforts in support of Republican candidate Mark Harris’ campaign included a “ballot harvesting” operation. Dowless and those who worked with him are alleged to have collected absentee ballots from Bladen County residents and offered to mail them for the voters. They are also alleged to have witnessed numerous absentee ballots and to have turned in hundreds of ballots to the Bladen County Board of Elections. 

In testimony before the NC State Board of Elections on Thursday of last week, Harris stated his son, John Harris, who is a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, warned him about Dowless’ methods and asked him not to hire Dowless. Mark Harris said he did not heed his son’s advice and hired Dowless any way.

Following the hearing, the NC State Board of Elections voted unanimously to conduct a new election for the 9th Congressional District, the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race and the Bladen County Soil and Water District Board.

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McCrae Dowless has been indicted by a grand jury and arrested in Raleigh on several charges resulting from his handling of absentee ballots in the 2016 general election and 2018 primary election.

Dowless was indicted by a grand jury on three counts of felony obstruction of justice, two (2) counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and two (2) counts of possession of absentee ballots, according to court records that were made public on Wednesday following his arrest.

Dowless was identified as a person of interest during the investigation into election irregularities that occurred in Bladen County in the 2018 election by the NC State Board of Elections. The NC State Board is investigating voting irregularities in the 9th Congressional District race. The State Board refused to the certify the results of that race and the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race and the Bladen County Soil and Water District Board race.

Dowless was hired by Republican Mark Harris’ campaign in the 2018 Election to operate a “Get Out the Vote” effort.

NC State Board of Elections conducted an evidentiary hearing last week into the matter. In testimony last week before the NC State Board of Elections, it was revealed that Dowless’ efforts including a “ballot harvesting” operation. Dowless and those who worked with him are are alleged to have collected absentee ballots from Bladen County residents and offered to mail them for the voters. They are also alleged to have witnessed numerous absentee ballots.

In testimony before the NC State Board of Elections on Thursday of last week, Harris stated his son, John Harris, who is a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, warned him about Dowless’ methods and asked him not to hire Dowless. Mark Harris said he did not heed his son’s advice and hired Dowless any way.

Following the hearing, the NC State Board of Elections voted unanimously to order a new election. The NC State Board has not met to set a date for the primary and general election.

The State Board of Elections has also not yet appointed the five new members to the Bladen County Board of Elections. A meeting to discuss the nominees for the Bladen County Board of Elections has not been announced.

BladenOnline.com will bring you more details as we learn them.

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