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Mark Harris, having a fine day (Sam Levine on Twitter)

Sad dillweed Baptist preacher man Mark Harris was so sure he'd been elected to Congress from the Ninth Congressional District of North Carolina last fall over Democrat Dan McCready. But then word got out about some pretty inventive fuckery with the absentee vote, and the state elections board got to investigating, and the interfering media kept finding even MORE evidence that absentee ballots in two counties had been well and truly rigged. And today, the elections board has opened its hearing on the whole mess, and poor sad Mark Harris can only stare on (sadly) as investigators and witnesses lay out just how rotten the vote-rigging was. How very sad this is. It's almost as if nobody's taking Harris's repeated calls to certify the election seriously anymore.


The newly constituted Board of Elections (oh, yes, there was some bother about the illegal composition of the board, so it was dissolved and then re-formed while the investigation went on) met today to hear, after a long delay, the evidence of frauding by Republican election operative Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was contracted to provide "get out the vote" services for Harris in Bladen and Robeson counties. Board of Elections executive director Kim Strach told the members that a "coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated" during the 2018 elections, and that the investigation was actually still ongoing.

Strach said that the two counties had unusually high numbers of unreturned absentee ballots: 595 in Bladen, and 1,493 in Robeson. Let's not forget, either, that according to previous reporting, both counties had insanely high unreturned ballot rates among minority voters. Strach acknowledged that some voters may simply have not bothered to send their ballots in, but that no other counties had such high percentages of unreturned ballots.

Strach laid out the basics of Dowless's absentee vote fraud scheme: He paid workers $150 for each 50 ballots they collected from voters, and then voted the blank ones at his home or office. He even got creative to try to avoid arousing suspicion:

Dowless tried to hide his scheme by delivering ballots in small batches, mailing them from post offices near voters' addresses, having witnesses falsely use the same date as the voter signed and using different ink colors for signatures.

In North Carolina, it's illegal for non-relatives to pick up someone's absentee vote to mail it, let alone fill it in fraudulently, so yeah, a few crimes happening here.

Strach also said, without going into detail, that "Efforts were made to obstruct this investigation," which we have to say is an impressive use of the passive voice. She said the evidence of that attempted obstruction would be revealed soon. (We bet it was probably Democrats without voter ID, you know how they cheat.)

The star witness of the morning was one of Dowless's best workers, Lisa Britt, who testified about her part in the scheme. She admitted she'd lied in a December TV interview. Back then, she'd said no one had been paid by Dowless to collect absentee ballots. But under oath today Britt said Dowless had paid her to collect absentee ballot request forms, and later ballots. She even got into the economics of election fraud.

She said she was initially paid $125 per 50 ballots, but that changed to a $200 weekly flat rate once they realized it was harder to convince people to hand over their ballots than the initial ballot request form.

"A lot of people don't want to give you their absentee ballot," Britt said.

Britt said she'd lied during the WBTV interview, early on when the story broke, out of maybe some misplaced loyalty to Dowless:

Britt explained that she has been very close to him for more than 30 years. Dowless is her former stepfather, having married then divorced her mother.

"Mr. Dowless has always been a father figure to me," she said. "Well, I'm not sure after today."

We'd suggest she not expect a birthday gift this year, maybe. Britt also detailed how the crew would figure out who to target to collect ballots: They'd track the daily Board of Elections updates on which voters had received a mail-in ballot, then pay those folks a helpful visit and tell them they'd just love to assist them.

One voter, Emma Shipman, told Britt she couldn't see very well when she marked her absentee ballot.

"I told her I could assist her," Britt said. "Her niece came over and helped her fill out her ballot. Myself and my son stayed outside while they filled out the ballot."

"I took the signed, sealed ballot," said Britt. "That ballot was turned back in with the other ballots I had collected that day" to Dowless.

Darned interfering family members.

Britt also said she didn't think Harris knew anything at all about the frauding, saying, "I think Mr. Harris was completely clueless as to what was going on," but also saying her impression was that Andy Yates, who owns "Red Dome Group," the political consulting firm that hired Dowless on Harris's behalf, probably did:

Britt said she heard Yates and Dowless talk on the phone about vote totals.

"I think Mr. Yates may have known," Britt said. "I could be wrong about that because maybe they were speaking about other numbers."

Britt sure tried to make sure Harris looked as clean as possible, insisting, "You've got one innocent person in this whole thing ... and that's Mr. Mark Harris." That would seem a bit of a stretch, given the Washington Post's reporting that campaign insiders had warned Harris in 2016 that Dowless was a shady operator. Harris went and hired Dowless to work the 2018 vote anyway, although of course Harris says he recalls no such warnings.

And just to give you one more detail of why the movie version of this clusterfuckery will be enormously entertaining: Britt told the elections board Dowless had just last week told her and other members of his campaign operation that they wouldn't need to worry about this stupid hearing, as long as they all simply refused to testify, and also maybe they could commit perjury, just a little.

Britt testified that after the investigation, McCrae Dowless gathered her and other election workers he'd employed at his Bladen County house.

"As long as we all stick together we'll all be fine, because they don't have anything on us," she said Dowless told them.

Dowless told them to say he never directed anyone to collect ballots, Britt said. That wasn't true, she testified.

McCrae Dowless (he goes by his middle name) may not be the brightest election frauder to come down the pike, we think. But he'd never do anything dishonest. We bet he doesn't know the meaning of the word "suborn."

Dowless also helpfully assisted his workers in prepping for the hearing today, Britt said:

And Thursday, Dowless gave Britt and other workers a piece of paper telling them what to say on the stand, Britt said.

The paper read: "I can tell you that I haven't done anything wrong in the election and McCrae Dowless has never told me to do anything wrong, and to my knowledge he has never done anything wrong, but I am taking the 5th Amendment because I don't have an attorney and I feel like you will try to trip me up. I am taking the 5th."

"He told us that is what we were to say at the hearing today," Britt said.

Dang it, some people just can't stick to the script. It is so hard to find good henchpeople these days. The hearing is expected to continue today and into tomorrow, after which the elections board will decide whether to certify the election for sad Mark Harris (an innocent victim who just got caught hiring a really shitty fraudster), or to call a new election altogether. That could depend on the partisan make-up of the NC elections board: There are three Democrats and two Republicans. Certifying takes three votes, and a new election would require four votes, so either result would require a single member to vote with the other party. This could get weird quickly as that Raleigh News & Observer explains:

If the board deadlocks and doesn't have enough votes either way, it's unclear what happens next. Harris wants the board to certify him the winner within 10 days if that happens, while McCready wants the U.S. House to decide whether there should be a new election, since the House has final say over whether to seat its members.

That's cute. If the board won't certify him, Harris insists the board therefore must certify him. He certainly seems certifiable.

In other news, Donald Trump hasn't said anything at all about the election fraud in NC 9, but he sure is worried about all those "illegal voters" in Texas.

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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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