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Details of "alleged" (sure) election fraud in the race for North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District keep piling up, putting in doubt whether the "winner" of the race, Republican Mark Harris, will ever take office. The state elections board refused to certify his "win" over Democrat Dan McCready (by just 905 votes) and has opened an investigation into "possible" (sure) election fraud. A contractor hired by Harris's campaign, Leslie McCrae Dowless, appears to have been running a brilliant scheme to nab absentee ballots from people all over Bladen and Robeson counties, then fake votes for Harris or just never turn in the ballots at all.

Harris "received" a ridiculous 61 percent of the absentee vote in the county, even though only 19 percent of mail-in ballots were requested by Republicans. Oh, yes, and huge numbers of requested mail-in ballots were never turned in. It remains to be seen who in Harris's campaign knew what was going on or whether anyone directed the absentee-ballot shenanigans. Let's dig in to all the latest in this fucktagon of fuckery!


Mail-In Ballot Fuckery Funtimes!

For starters, a North Carolina teevee reporter, Joe Bruno with Charlotte station WSOC, keeps finding all sorts of fun evidence of screwy stuff. As we previously noted, a group of eight people somehow managed to sign as witnesses on some 130 mail-in ballots, which is really weird. Funny thing about those eight witnesses! When Bruno went looking for them in Bladen County, some weren't home. Five had all listed their address in an apartment complex, where the manager told Bruno only one of them actually rents an apartment -- and it's a one-bedroom place. One threatened to call the police on Bruno, which seems perfectly normal, since reporters are the enemies of the people. And one, Ginger Eason, explained to Bruno why her name appeared on 28 ballots: She was just helping out Dowless, because he was paying her $75 to $100 a week to collect mail-in ballots. In North Carolina, it's illegal for anyone but a close relative of the voter to turn in absentee ballots.

Eason said she didn't mail or fill in (or destroy) any ballots, just dropped them off with Dowless, a convicted felon who's reportedly run versions of absentee ballot scams in previous elections, too. She also said Dowless never told her that collecting mail-in ballots was illegal in North Carolina.

Then on Tuesday, Bruno spoke to Cheryl Kinlaw, another woman who'd witnessed multiple ballots. She's a friend of Eason, and told pretty much the same story: She'd been paid by Dowless to collect ballots, and had no idea what happened to them after she turned them over to him.

Kinlaw added that Dowless told his team of ballot collectors -- she said she knows of at least five other people who did the same thing she did -- to push two candidates, Mark Harris and Sheriff Jim McVicker, who was up for reelection. But Kinlaw didn't do that; she just urged people to vote for whoever they wanted. We like her for that. Kinlaw said she assumed it was all perfectly legal, because Dowless "has been doing it for years."

Well of course it all seemed normal. It's not like he was a Democrat, and everyone knows they're the ones you gotta look out for.

In other developments, the North Carolina Board of Elections announced it would start posting exhibits from the District 9 election on a website, as long as releasing the information didn't compromise the investigation. Among the first batch of documents was a massive list of voters who had requested absentee ballots but whose ballots weren't returned for the election; that ought to make for some interesting leads for reporters. And then there's a sign-in form from the Bladen County election board office showing the names of people who'd dropped off requests for mail-in ballots. Looks like McCrae Dowless (guess he dropped the "Leslie" -- junior high, we'd bet) was a very busy fella leading up to the election! Here's just one page (we've redacted the phone numbers, because don't be a dick is why):

In all, Dowless requested 590 absentee ballots, probably because he's a real civic-minded guy who wanted to help people vote, especially if they voted the right way. Should be interesting to find out what happened with those ballots, huh?

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!

Now that wheels and body panels are flying off this sad little rusty '79 Fiesta of fraud, the people Dowless enlisted in it, like Eason and Kinlaw, are starting to talk, because obviously a hundred bucks a week isn't enough to buy silence. Two more people in Dowless's outfit spoke to Buzzfeed News, which last night published a holy-shit story about the inner workings of the scheme. Not a pretty sight! The two women who went on the record both have loose family connections to Dowless, but it appears he's not very good at enforcing omerta. Jessica Dowless (her husband is "distantly related" to McCrae Dowless) told Buzzfeed the vote-boofing campaign involved stacks of cash that the workers sometimes used to buy opioids, either to stay awake or for the hell of it.

One worker, she said, "was so fucking high the other day she passed out at the fucking computer." One of the workers who collected absentee ballots from residents was a "pill head," she said [...]

"My job was at the office and I read emails and counted how many Republicans and Democrats and non-affiliated people voted everyday ... I added up how many voted that day and wrote it on a piece of paper and then they read it and then I don't know what it did with it. McCrae was the only one who saw it," she said. "I would go down each page and count how many black Republicans, white Republicans and I did the opposite, black unaffiliated, black Democrats, and add them up and then calculate the percentage of how many people voted that way each day."

She also said Dowless had "wads and wads of cash" and that "Mark Harris was writing him checks left and right," although she also said she never saw the checks. That may just be shorthand, since technically Dowless was a contractor for "Red Dome," a political consulting outfit hired by the Harris campaign.

Jessica Dowless claimed she had also been paid by the Bladen County elections board, which whoa if true, but Buzzfeed's Brianna Sacks and Otillia Steadman note it's "unclear if the county Board of Elections actually paid her, or for what," and they were unable to get any comment from the county. But they also note the county elections director, Cynthia Shaw,

stepped down last week, amid a state inquiry into the 2018 results, opting to leave one month before her scheduled retirement, according to WRAL.

Did we mention fuckin' WHOA?!

Ms. Dowless said the operation involved workers going out to collect ballots and seal them, after which the sealed ballots would come back to the office where she worked. Only then would Team Creepy round up workers to "witness" the ballot, which even she thought was iffy, though she says, "I told McCrae I didn't want to do that but we had no one else," so sure, she witnessed some.

The other woman Buzzfeed spoke to, Lisa Britt (she also goes by "Lisa Gray"), is McCrae Dowless's stepdaughter, and also probably a prime subject for an Errol Morris documentary -- Jebus Chimes, this whole fucking madhouse is. Jessica Dowless said Britt was part of the ballot-collecting operation, and at least two people who filed affidavits about a blond woman who came to take their mail-in ballots later identified her from a photo. Not surprisingly, Britt -- who witnessed 44 of the mail-in ballots -- says those are all dirty lies and she did nothing illegal.

"I didn't take any of them," Britt said.

"Everybody thought they were helping Mr. Harris get elected," Britt said. "As far as going and telling anybody who to vote for, we weren't."

"It didn't affect me any way as to how people voted," she said.

"I'm not giving a statement to you that can cause me to end up in prison, I'm really not sure about the legal aspects," Britt said. At the time, she said, she believed everything she was doing was legal.

In a telephone interview for an earlier Buzzfeed story, Britt had been even less forthcoming in a phone interview:

Britt told BuzzFeed News she did witness absentee ballots being completed. "Yes, I witnessed them — what's wrong with that? It isn't illegal," she said, before hanging up.

Britt appears to be the woman mentioned in one of the first outrageous voter affidavits to get widespread attention in this fucktangle, from voter Datesha Montgomery.

"I filled out two names on the ballot, Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education," Montgomery wrote in the affidavit. "She stated the others were not important. I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time."

When a local teevee station showed Montgomery a photo of Britt, she said that was the woman who'd collected her ballot, which can't possibly be true since Britt denies ever picking up any ballots. Montgomery's ballot wasn't submitted, so she voted in person. Another Bladen County voter, fire inspector Dwight Sheppard, identified Britt as having worked for McCrae Dowless, and said in a phone interview, "In the past, Mr. Dowless has always manipulated the absentee ballots." Sheppard, who's white, said he'd been told by several Bladen County residents that Britt had visited multiple homes of black voters to collect their ballots.

This is very disturbing: Some very bad person who looks exactly like Lisa Britt but is definitely not her is doing election fraud out there. We hope this evil twin or clone is tracked down soon.

Seating Frenzy

In other NC 9 news -- yes, get used to that shorthand! -- incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer floated the possibility of just plain not seating Mark Harris in the House if the questions over his election aren't resolved, because the Constitution empowers the House to decide who's a legitimately elected member. Hoyer even hinted that if North Carolina's elections board were to certify the election without a sufficiently rigorous investigation of the election, the US House might hold its own hearing process to look into matters. The elections board has promised a full investigation, and will hold a hearing before December 21 on whether to certify the election or possibly call a new one. And let's not forget, there's also a serious question of whether similar Dowless-directed fuckery was involved in Harris's surprise primary "win" over incumbent Republican Robert Pettinger -- Harris miraculously got 96 percent of the absentee vote in Bladen County, well above the in-person total. No telling what the election board will do with that.

Not surprisingly, the North Carolina GOP went on a tweeting frenzy Tuesday evening, insisting it fully supports "criminal investigations into any possible unlawful election activities," but adding that honestly, since nothing damning has shown up yet, it's only fair to immediately certify the election and send Mark Harris to Congress, and why is the elections board dragging its feet?

Stay classy, NCGOP!

[WSOC-TV / WaPo / WSOC-TV / Buzzfeed / WaPo / Buzzfeed]

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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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