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By Erin Smith

The newly seated five-member panel of the NC State Board of Elections began hearing evidence that has been gathered after months of investigations into allegations of election fraud and ballot tampering in the 9th Congressional District race. The board will be determining if enough evidence exists to call for a new election or if the results of the November 2018 General Election should be certified.

Republican candidate Mark Harris leads Democratic candidate Dan McCready by 905 votes.

In November, a nine-member panel State Board of Elections and Ethics refused to certify the elections results after allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties surfaced. A three member panel of judges later ruled the nine-member panel of the State Board of Elections and Ethics was unconstitutional and dissolved it on December 28, 2018.

The first witness to take the stand on Monday morning was Lisa Britt. She is the stepdaughter of McCrae Dowless, who is the main focus of the State Board of Elections investigation.

In her testimony Monday, Britt spoke about being paid in cash by Dowless and she also testified about initialing lying to the media about her role in collecting absentee ballots. She testified that she was paid to collect absentee ballots —which is a violation of state law.

Britt also testified about the use of the same color of ink as the voter’s signature when witnessing ballots. She testified that she was also told to be careful when placing stamps on the return envelopes so as not to raise suspicions at the Board of Elections office.

Britt also testified that Dowless asked her to invoke her 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination rather than testifying.

When asked specifically about whether or not she collected an absentee ballot from Laticia Montgomery she replied, “No.”

“We requested absentee ballot request forms out at the apartment complex (where Laticia Montgomery resides),” said Britt.

When shown an absentee ballot request form and affidavit from Montgomery, Britt said she did not recognize the handwriting.

Britt was questioned about how many people Dowless was paying for the absentee ballot operation to which Britt replied she was not aware of exactly how many individuals were being paid.

“I don’t know who he had working anywhere else,” said Britt.

She answered questions about conversations regarding the number of absentee ballots that had been gathered. Britt testified there were several conversations about the number of absentee ballots Dowless had.

Britt was questioned about what Dowless said to her and others at a meeting at his home following the NC State Board of Elections meeting on November 22nd, 2018.

“That is when we were all told, if everyone sticks together, we would all be fine,” testified Britt.

She also answered questions about leaking unredacted voting documents to the media. Britt denied giving any documents to members of the media. Britt claimed in her testimony she did not have access to such documents.

Britt also testified that she saw some absentee ballots that were not completed and she marked them for Republican candidates because “McCrae Dowless was working for the Republicans.”

Attorneys for Mark Harris and Dan McCready are expected to call numerous witnesses and the NC State Board of Elections is also expected to call witnesses this week. The hearing is expected to last several days.