Bladen Co. Improvement Association President says he was tipped off about absentee ballot investigation

PAC tipped off about investigation

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The President of the Bladen County Improvement Association says he was tipped off that the North Carolina State Board of Elections would be investigating McCrae Dowless and absentee ballot programs in Bladen County during the 2018 election cycle.

In an exclusive interview with WBTV, BCIA President Horace Munn says he received the tip before the 2018 primary. Shortly after getting the tip, he said, he told investigators with the North Carolina State Board of Elections that his organization would not take part in an absentee ballot program that year.

The NCSBE voted last week to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District, following a four-day hearing into voting irregularities in the district that focused largely on activities carried out by Dowless as part of an absentee ballot operation.

Dowless was hired by Republican candidate Mark Harris to run an absentee ballot program, among other things, in Bladen, Robeson and Cumberland Counties.

When asked, Munn would not reveal who tipped him off, saying he would withhold that information until the criminal investigation into absentee ballot fraud is finished.

After he received the tip, Munn said he also informed members of the Improvement Association that they would forego any absentee ballot programs during the 2018 election.

“I told them we are not doing absentee ballots this year,” Munn said. Munn said he told the members that what they do on their own time is up to them.

Several members of the BCIA turned in a total of 458 absentee ballot applications before the 2018 general election but Munn insisted that they were acting on their own and not representing BCIA.

Despite his claim, the BCIA was brought up numerous times by board investigators, witnesses and board members. But Munn said he felt the treatment from the NCSBE was unfair and that he was set up by investigators to try and make a case that ‘both sides’ were violating election laws.

Specifically, Munn said testimony from Lisa Britt—who worked for Dowless in the 2018 election—in which she pointed out Munn and said she saw at Dowless’ office making copies of absentee ballot applications, was a lie.

Lisa Britt points out Horace Munn on the 1st day of hearings in the 9th Congressional District election hearings.
Lisa Britt points out Horace Munn on the 1st day of hearings in the 9th Congressional District election hearings.

“I haven’t dealt with McCrae in years,” Munn said.

Munn believes his entire reason for being at the hearings was a ruse by board investigators.

Munn said that after he received the tip that the NCSBE would be investigating Dowless, he called Joan Fleming, NCSBE’s Chief Investigator, to tell her the BCIA would not be participating in an absentee ballot program in 2018.

“I know that he’s (Dowless) doing stuff illegally and to keep my organization clean we will not participate,” Munn said he told Fleming. He said he also told her that he was tipped off about investigation.

Before the 9th District hearings began, Munn said he received a subpoena to testify. He said Fleming told him he would be called to testify about their conversation.

Executive Director Kim Strach (left) and Chief Investigator Joan Fleming (right) during the first day of hearings.
Executive Director Kim Strach (left) and Chief Investigator Joan Fleming (right) during the first day of hearings.

Instead, Munn said that on the first day he was asked to leave the witness room and come to the main hearing room during Lisa Britt’s testimony. It was at that point that Britt pointed out Munn as someone she saw at Dowless’ office during the 2018 election cycle.

“Haul me upstairs like a piece of meat just to point me out,” Munn said. He said that once Britt’s testimony was finished he was told by board staff that he was released from his subpoena.

Munn claimed that Dowless’ phone records obtained by the board would prove that he’s telling the truth about not being in contact with Dowless.

“Why would you let her point me out when you know she’s lying?” Munn said

Munn also claimed that the board of elections did not pay for his room or travel and only did that for witnesses they wanted to hear from.

Munn said there’s even more to uncover about McCrae Dowless’ absentee ballot operation and he’s hoping that investigations into his operation continue.

“McCrae wasn’t stupid enough to get caught,” Munn said. “He thought he was above the law.”

A spokesman for the NCSBE said in an email statement "State Board staff believes that the evidence presented in Raleigh last week will serve as a reminder that this agency will not tolerate efforts to defraud the electoral system in North Carolina. Our agency will support all prosecutorial efforts by the Wake County District Attorney.”

The spokesperson declined to answer numerous questions from WBTV citing the ongoing criminal investigation but said that “The State Board paid expenses for witnesses who were asked to travel to Raleigh on Sunday night ahead of the hearing.”

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