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By Ben Kamisar, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Rich Gardella
WASHINGTON – Leslie McCrae Dowless, the man in the middle of the election fraud that has called North Carolina 9th Congress District, has a long and colorful history as a political operator in the district.
The candidates he works for often perform better than expected among absent voters in one of the county’s counties, one reason why he has been hired by a series of political campaigns over the years.
But public documents paint a more complicated image linking him to previous allegations of incorrect voting and demonstrating that he spent time in jail on an anti-fraud scam.
Dowless has come under scrutiny since the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement voted for not confirming Republican Mark Harriss apparent 905-voice victory over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th district c progressive race. Instead, the Board, a governmental authority responsible for the administration and the certification of elections, called for a public hearing by 21 December to investigate “allegations of irregularities and fraudulent activities in connection with absenteeisms”.
According to state law, the board is empowered to order a new election in a given competition if it determines that there were sufficiently large “irregularities or irregularities” to “bring in the outcome of the entire election and doubt justice”.
On Friday the board publicly named Dowless a person interested in his investigation, although it has looked at activities around Dowless since at least 2016.
McCrae Dowless. WECT
Much of the concern of this former election center on Harris commander’s advantage in absenteeism results in Bladen County, a rural area between Fayetteville and Wilmington in the southeastern part of the state.
The Republic won more than 61 percent of Blow Count’s submission dollars, a puzzling margin, considering that only 19 percent of the accepted deposit dollars belonged to registered Republican voters.
Other possible discrepancies in absentee voting data, including near Robeson County, have also raised issues among experts and investigators.
Dowless’s stated specialty is his “out-of-the-vote” initiative, especially with absentee polls in Bladen County.
And his candidates have succeeded there – a Washington Post analysis showed that at least five candidates like Dowless worked for 2010 made significantly better posts in absenteeism from the magazines than they did outside the county.
One of these races was the 2018 Republican Primary, where Harris Dethroned Commanded Rep. Robert Pittenger, helped by winning 437 of 456 Bladen County absentee polls. Harris won the district with 829 votes in total.
The Red Dome Group, an area’s political consulting firm, assisted the campaign during the primary and general elections on a variety of tasks, including the press, strategy and specific pursuit of absentee voting in Bladen County. New federal election searches show that Red Dome specifically performed the “Blades absentee” work. The campaign still depends on Red Dome of more than $ 34,000 for that work, the filing.
Red Dome employed Dowless as an “Independent Entrepreneur”, founder of the organization Andy Yates, confirmed Charlotte Observer.
Documents published by the election board point to Dowless as the central figure in a reconciliation operation, where a handful of people requested suspended voters voting and then paid affiliated companies later signed these valor certificates as witnesses.
According to an NBC News analysis of the Bladen County Board of Elections document released by the state government, Dowless turned to 590 absent voting forms from late August to the end of October 2018. A Jessica Dowless turned over another 185 applications. The notes on the document were handwritten, with signatures for both Dowlesses.
Links to McCrea Dowless are also viewed on final voting papers, which witnesses must sign to ensure that the vote was filled exactly to the wishes of the voter.
At least 86 returned polls include witnesses’ signatures from those who have ties to Dowless-either those who share a last name with him or have been linked to him in any capacity. According to state legislation, two witnesses must sign a certificate filed on the outside of a submitted vote.
Cherly Kinlaw and Ginger Eason, who signed several voices, told WSOC TV that they worked for Dowless.
Jessica Dowless and Sandra Dowless also signed a handful of void voices.
Dozens of certifications were also signed by Lisa Britt. Under her signature, Britt lists the same address as Sandra Dowless, her mother and McCrea Dowless, ex-wife. But residents in their public housing area say that she is only staying there sometimes.
It is not illegal to request dependent voting for many voters or to write as a testimony to dozens of recurring polls – although there are some limitations that allow candidates and campaign staff or some elderly care providers to serve as witnesses.
But it’s illegal if witnesses sign certifications for voting not completed by the voter. It is also illegal at any time for a third party to vote in a poll.
Until now there have been several allegations of illegal activities.
In their interviews with WSOC TV, both Kinlaw and Eason said that Dowless paid them to pick up absentee voting from the voters. The two women said they were not aware that it was against the law.
Two Blades County voters told NBC News that Britt came to their home to collect their absentee votes as well, a charge that Britt denied Buzzfeed News.
Dowless did not respond to several attempts by NBC News to reach him for comments, but he denied earlier mistakes against Charlotte Observer.
Red Dome did not respond to requests for comments, but also previously denied knowledge of offenses.
The Nomination Committee has renounced the Harris Campaign and Red Dome, along with the Campaign for Blades County Sheriff James McVicker, who has also worked with Dowless in connection with the investigation.
There are links between Harris and Dowless outside of Red Dome, but no evidence that the candidate knew about incorrect voting.
Pete Givens, a form is a Republican candidate for the Charlotte City Council, told NBC News that Harris took him to meet Dowless where Dowless described his strategy of submitting absentee reconciliation forms.
Givens said that everything that Dowless described to him during that meeting was in law and that he did not know Dowless criminal history. But while Givens briefly paid Dowless for help with the process, no Dowless associates all worked with Giv’s campaign and Givens stopped using these methods after a few months because it did not work for the campaign.
Harris released a video statement on Twitter on Friday who said that his campaign collaborates fully and that he knew no mistakes.
“If this survey finds evidence of illegal activity on either side, to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure that all voters have confidence in the results,” he said.
The latest controversy is not Dowless’s first brush with either the law or accusations of battered polls.
Following unresolved reelection to the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2016, an unpaid position, he filed a complaint to the North Carolina Board of Elections statement of possible absence-b Allow fraud by their opponents. While winning his seat convincingly, his highest opponent won more than 29 percent of the vote as enrollment candidate.
But two voters also filed complaints to the board in that contest alleging irregularities of those who were associated with Dowless.  A saying that after a Dowless associate helped his family fill in absent forms for pickup, they never received these polls. When they tried to vote in person they were told that they could not, because they had already voted with absent voting.
The second complaint by a voter whose absent application was signed by a Dowless Associate claims that another man briefly took possession of her family voices because he had to show them to his boss to be paid. He did not finally leave the polls within the window he promised, but it was unclear if he ever did.
When questioned by the National Board regarding the choice of these complaints, Dowless rejected the wrongness, but showed some familiarity with the complaint he filed against his opponent.
He continued to refuse to pay employees for each vote they requested, and led the staff to either fill in someone else’s vote or ask their employees to take in another vote’s vote.
The board said Friday that it has investigated any irregularities since.
The episode was covered by this American Life radio show at WBEZ Chicago at the time.
Just a few weeks before the election in 2018, the Board sent letters to the Bladen County voters who had requested absentee-to-vote polls to warn them not to let anyone fill in or turn in their polls.
A source familiar with the investigation requesting anonymity told NBC News th at the letter sent in direct response to tips on an alleged Dowless system.
Decades earlier, Dowless accused himself of breach of 1992 breach of insurance and bounced $ 1560 and $ 15 checks according to court documents.
In 1991, Fayetteville Observer reported that Leslie McCrae Dowless and his wife Sandra Kay Hooks Brown Dowless were accused of taking out a life insurance policy on a former former Dowless employee. To achieve the policy, he was accused of slaying the death’s signature and deceitfully dating it to days before his death.
The alleged system was briefly successful, as the couple received a check for more than $ 163,000 from the insurance company,
North Carolina Department of Public Security’s Offender Registry shows that Dowless served for six months in jail for the insurance fraud record, which was simultaneously served with shorter sentences for a worthless check.
– Rich Gardella contributed from Washington, Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed from Bladen County, NC and Steve Swicegood contributed from Charlotte