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By Erin Smith

Following the indictment and arrest of McCrae Dowless for his role in an absentee ballot operation in the 2016 election and in the 2018 primary, others could be facing charges as well.

According to reports, four other individuals who assisted Dowless in his campaign efforts in 2016 are also potentially facing charges. The names of the other four individuals who were indicted have not been released and a call to the Wake County District Attorney seeking further information was unreturned as of press time.

The charges were filed after an investigation into voting irregularities by the NC State Board of Elections, NC State Bureau of Investigation and the Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman. The charges from reports of irregularities which took place in Bladen County in the 2016 election and the 2018 primary election.

During the 2018 election, Dowless is alleged to have run an absentee ballot harvesting operation. The NC State Board of Elections conducted an evidentiary hearing last week regarding the activities that took place.

During testimony given in the hearing, Republican candidate Mark Harris said his son, John Harris, who is a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, asked him not to hire Dowless. John Harris testified he told his father that Dowless was somehow gathering the absentee ballots and mailing them in the Board of Elections office in batches. John Harris also testified that he asked Mark Harris not to hire Dowless.

During the evidentiary hearing, it was learned that Harris first met with Dowless in a meeting held at Ray’s Furniture in Elizabethtown. The meeting was arranged by Judge Marion Warren, according to Mark Harris. The meeting was attended by Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt, Pat Melvin, Dowless, and Bladen County Republican Party Chairman Walter McDuffie, according to Mark Harris’ testimony.

Following the evidentiary 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. The NC State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Monday, March 4, 2019, to set a date for a new primary and election and to consider appointments to local boards of election. The NC State Board of Elections tabled appointing new members to the Bladen County Board of Elections until the completion of the evidentiary hearing.

The NC State Board of Elections has said they will monitor activities and conduct the new election in Bladen County.

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