The Slatest

North Carolina GOP Contractor Who May Have Organized Voter Fraud Was Once Convicted of Regular Fraud

Harris stands at a presidential lectern and addresses a crowd against a backdrop of Trump supporters holding signs.
Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris with Donald Trump and North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd on Oct. 26 in Charlotte.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Republican North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris is in the stew. While he seemed to have won his November race over Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th District by a narrow margin, the North Carolina elections board has not certified his victory because of irregularities involving absentee ballots. An individual named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked as a “grassroots” campaign contractor for Harris, is suspected of coordinating an effort to trick some individuals in the district into handing over their absentee ballots, then submitting them as votes for Harris and/or destroying them if they were already marked as votes for his opponent. Harris appears to have won a disproportionate percentage of absentee votes in Bladen County, where Dowless has long worked as a political operative.

A Monday report by Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC digs into Dowless’s biography and history in local politics. It does not exactly dispel the idea that he would be capable of dishonest and illegal practices:

Dowless has a criminal record dating back to the 1980s.

Records show Dowless served six months in prison after being convicted of felony fraud charge in 1992. Dowless has also previously faced a charge for perjury.

Lefty journalist Judd Legum, who reported on the fraud conviction on Saturday, located a state document which indicates that Dowless tried to obtain a $160,000 insurance payout by backdating a life insurance policy for an acquaintance who’d died in a single-car accident. He also appears to have been convicted of the (felony) perjury charge and of writing a bad check in 1987.

WSOC also looked into absentee voting numbers for candidates that Dowless has worked for in the past, finding that one 2016 congressional primary candidate who employed Dowless won 98 percent of the absentee-by-mail vote in Bladen County despite finishing last in the primary overall.

Hmm. Hmm!

(There has been no suggestion, to be clear, that either Harris or past employers of Dowless’ were aware that he may have engaged in voter fraud.)