UNION COUNTY — Mark Harris has been cleared of being involved in ballot fraud during the 2018 election.
In November of 2018, then-Republican candidate Harris was declared the unofficial winner against Democratic candidate Dan McCready to represent the Ninth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The results were thrown out by the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE), because the Mark Harris for Congress campaign was accused of absentee by mail ballot fraud.
An evidentiary hearing was held in February 2019, where it was determined that Leslie McCrae Dowless tampered with mail-in ballots.
The Enquirer-Journal reported around that time: “Dowless is accused of collecting absentee ballots despite not having a position with a county level Board of Elections. He is also accused of gathering a team of people to collect absentee ballots, to be witnesses when voters filled out their ballots and paying those people money for ballots and absentee request forms they turned in to him. The team members did not have positions at county level Board of Elections. The accused tampering happened in both Bladen County and Robeson County.”
Dowless’ stepdaughter, who was found to be complicit in the ballot fraud, said: “she felt sorry for Harris because he was ‘clueless’ about the absentee ballot operation, but was being eviscerated for it,” according to the same report from the Enquirer-Journal.
A special election was held in September of 2019 (Ninth District residents went almost a year without representation in Washington D.C.), when McCready ran against new Republican candidate Dan Bishop. McCready was narrowly defeated again by a Republican.
On Wednesday, July 16, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said: “Following more than a year of investigation by multiple State and Federal agencies into the involvement of former Congressional candidate Mark Harris and the Harris Campaign into the absentee ballot operations in Bladen County during the 2018 General Election, our office has concluded that there is not evidence which would support a criminal case against Dr. Harris and therefore, is closing the matter as to him.”
Harris, in a press release, stated: “Nearly 600 days ago I told the voters of the 9th district that my campaign would fully cooperate with investigators in a process that would ultimately reveal insufficient evidence to overturn an election. I am personally grateful for the detailed investigation by the Wake County District Attorney and the cooperating federal and state agencies to finally restore my reputation. I trust the investigators will continue their work so North Carolina voters can be assured that their vote counts in a system that follows the rule of law.”