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We keep learning more daily about the endless fucktangle of shitweaselry in the absentee ballot fraud (at this point, do we need to say "alleged"? Fine, "alleged") that "won" North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District for Republican Mark Harris. Harris appeared to get 905 votes more than the Democrat, Dan McCready, but the state elections board, alerted to some serious fucking fuckery, refused to certify the result and is now investigating just what the fucking fuck happened. A criminal investigation is underway as well.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported it looks like the architect of the fuckery, this one motherfucking Republican campaign operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless, has been at it for at least eight years, apparently working his magic on absentee voting in Bladen County in at least five different elections. (A whole bunch of mail-in ballots also went missing in neighboring Robeson County, but most of the attention has been on Bladen.) Maybe "architect" is too grand a term -- Dowless seems more the type to pound together election fraud in his garage out of two-by-fours and baling wire.


WaPo political numbers maven Philip Bump examines the performance of Republican candidates Dowless was hired to help since 2010, and finds an amazing coincidence: When Dowless got a really good payday, those candidates did far better in the Bladen County absentee vote than they did in ordinary voting. In three campaigns where Dowless was paid relatively little, his candidates didn't do so great in the Bladen County absentee vote. "The implication? In those races, his outreach effort was less robust." There's a chart and everything!

The piece was later updated to note that in 2010, another candidate who paid Dowless $5000, one of his higher fees, also didn't do well in the Bladen County mail-in vote, making that "the only example of Dowless being paid more than $1,500 without Bladen County outperforming on absentee ballots." Then again, it was Dowless's first year running absentee "get-out-the vote" efforts, so maybe Dowless was still learning his craft -- whatever that craft, ahem, was.

But in general, when Dowless was paid well, the absentee vote in Bladen County tended to go well above the favored candidate's overall support -- by as much as 56 percentage points, in a 2016 US House primary. Despite that boost, the candidate, Todd Johnson, failed to unseat the incumbent, then-Rep. Robert Pittenger, because there are several other counties in NC 9.

Funny thing! Pittenger is the very incumbent ousted in this year's Republican primary back in May, when Mark Harris got an amazing 98 percent of the mail-in vote in Bladen County. Yes, Dowless was working on that campaign, and yes, that was a 20-point improvement over Harris's district-wide performance.

Dowless's particular set of skills really came to light after that 2016 race, in which Johnson miraculously "won" virtually the entire mail-in vote for Bladen County, but only got 30.6 of the vote district-wide. But not, initially, because of that outcome. Nope, it had a lot more to do with Dowless's own challenge -- a remarkably clumsy one at that -- of the votes when he was reelected to his current office, as Bladen County's soil and water supervisor. Dowless accused a nonprofit group helping black voters in Bladen County of having run a "blatant scheme" to steal the vote, as public radio reporter Zoe Chace reported on "This American Life" in December 2016, and if all 300 ballots he challenged could be disqualified, that could have tipped the outcome in the NC governor's race, which had been won by Democrat Roy Cooper. Eliminate those votes, and Republican incumbent and straight-people toilet defender Pat McCrory might remain in office.

Unfortunately for the effort to find massive Democrat election tampering, once the challenge made it to the state board of elections, Dowless seemed amazingly clueless about his own claim, and couldn't even remember whether he or his lawyer -- "I can't think of the gentlemen's name. Steve? I can't remember his last name" -- had come up with the phrase "blatant scheme" in Dowless's written complaint. Dowless made such an ass of himself (and the evidence of frauding simply didn't hold up) that the elections board voted to dismiss the complaint, the dream of undoing rampant Dem fraud vanished, and NC Republicans had to settle for restricting Cooper's power before he was inaugurated, setting a precedent for this year's lame-duckery fuckery in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Oh, but while the board questioned Dowless, the damn fool kept talking, and eventually implicated himself in running the very sort of illegal absentee ballot mill he'd unsuccessfully accused evil bad black Democrats of running. Dowless explained that he'd, uh, paid some "volunteers" for each ballot they collected, and yes, that's more than a little illegal in North Carolina.

One of the voters who signed an affidavit said that Get Out the Vote workers came by and had her family request absentee ballots. But then they never received their absentee ballots in the mail like they were supposed to. Then, when the family went to vote on election day, they were told they'd already voted. In essence, McCrae's getting accused of paying people to obtain absentee ballots, fill them out, and cast their votes on someone else's behalf. That, for sure, is illegal. McCrae says he didn't do anything wrong.

One of the board members called for a criminal investigation, which is still underway -- in fact, this year's electoral fuckery on behalf of Harris, in the primary and the general, has now been folded into that ongoing investigation from 2016.

WaPo's Bump directs our attention back to the original focus of Chace's story, North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, who'd been looking everywhere for Democratic voting chicanery but instead stumbled across l'affaire Dowless. Woodhouse still believed Democrats are bent on in-person voter fraud, despite not finding any -- of the 57 complaints of voter fraud in 2016, the elections board "dismissed the vast majority of them," Chace notes.

Ah, but Dallas Woodhouse, he's ever-vigilant, as Bump points out. When Dowless was accusing that nonprofit group of faking the absentee vote, Woodhouse told Chace,

Should the election board find that these are absentee ballot mills, with the purpose of fraudulent voting, those people should go to jail. They should go to jail. They should spend the first term of the Trump administration behind bars.

Bump checks in on Woodhouse's reaction to the investigation into Dowless's fuckery this year:

Woodhouse was then and is now the executive director of the Republican Party in North Carolina. Earlier this week, he recorded a message for donors in the state.

"We are trying to cobble together additional donations to the state party because we are trying to keep the Democrats from stealing the congressional race from Mark Harris," Woodhouse said in the message, according to Joe Bruno of WSOC-TV in Charlotte. "They are throwing everything against the wall, and it is running up expenses for us by the minute. But you know they'll steal it if they can. And the frustrating thing to [state party] Chairman [Robin] Hayes, and I know you as well, this is just a test to see if they can steal North Carolina from Donald Trump in 2020."

Damn those evil Democrats, making such crazy allegations that appear to be backed up by a raft of hinky behavior by Dowless on behalf of the candidate who was paying him, Mark Harris. Monday, Woodhouse made it absolutely clear on the Twitters that the NC GOP was "not involved in any Bladen County absentee ballot efforts," so there. And it remains to be seen whether anyone in the Harris campaign knew exactly how Dowless was so good at bringing in the absentee vote for his candidates.

But golly, here are a few additional facts to chew on: The Maddow Blog yesterday turned up disclosure forms showing that not only had Dowless been paid by consulting firm "Red Dome"; he and one of his workers, Jessica Dowless -- a distant relative by marriage who revealed some of the inner workings of the scheme this week -- were also paid by the Bladen County GOP.

And Charlotte TV news reporter Joe Bruno seems to have found a very direct link between Harris and Dowless, which should make for some very interesting questions for the "winner" of the election:

Guy had a process. Don't know anything about it, but wow, what a process.

Yr Wonkette will bring you more tales of NC 9 fuckery, probably as soon as we've started researching a fantastic health care policy story.

[WaPo / This American Life / Charlotte Observer]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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