BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) – Documents obtained exclusively by WBTV are providing the first look inside the absentee ballot operation of a Bladen County political operative hired by Mark Harris’ 2018 campaign for Congress, which is under scrutiny as part of a wide-ranging investigation into alleged election fraud.
Harris, a republican, bead Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the November general election.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections refused to certify the results of the election, citing potential election irregularities.
In the weeks since that initial vote at the end of November, NCSBE staff and investigators with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has been probing potential voting-related crimes in Bladen and Robeson Counties.
Much of the focus has been on operations in Bladen County that promoted voting by absentee ballot.
McCrae Dowless - who was hired by Harris in the 2018 election to run a get out the vote campaign focused primarily on absentee ballots in Bladen County - has emerged as a central figure in the investigation.
Affidavits filed by the North Carolina Democratic Party and McCready’s campaign included two voters who said they discovered absentee ballot request forms had been filed in their name that they had not completed.
Both voters who submitted affidavits through the McCready campaign said they discovered the forms after a woman named Lisa Britt - who worked for Dowless in the 2018 election - asked them if they would like to request an absentee ballot. Both voters told her they did not, according to their affidavits.
Records obtained by WBTV confirm both voters’ request forms were submitted by Dowless.
More broadly, the records paint a picture of the types of voters targeted by Dowless in his absentee ballot operation: white and unaffiliated.
WBTV obtained 525 absentee ballot request forms submitted by Dowless for voters who were registered to vote in Bladen County.
The forms came from voters in six precincts in Bladen County that fall within the 9th Congressional District.
We used multiple sets of data provided by the NCSBE and Bladen County Board of Elections to determine the race and party affiliation of every voter on whose behalf Dowless submitted an absentee ballot request form.
Of the 525 absentee ballots submitted by Dowless, only 52 were submitted on behalf of a non-White voter.
A total of 17 Black voters on whose behalf Dowless submitted an absentee ballot request form did not vote.
Seven Black voters for whom Dowless submitted an absentee ballot cast an absentee ballot. The balance voted in-person.
Of the 525 absentee ballot request forms Dowless submitted, 74 were from registered Democrats.
Another 167 of the voters were registered Republicans. The balance of voters were registered unaffiliated, records show.
We also determined whether each of the voters cast a ballot in the 2018 election and, if so, what method they used to vote.
A total of 225 voters, or 43 percent, who requested an absentee ballot through Dowless voted via mail-in absentee ballot.
Of the balance of those voters who requested an absentee ballot through Dowless but didn’t vote via mail-in absentee, 198 voters, or 38 percent, didn’t vote at all. The balance of voters, or 19 percent, voted in person.
Dowless has not granted any media interviews but his attorney issued a statement in December saying her client had not violated any laws.
Of the 13 people who submitted affidavits to the NCSBE through McCready’s campaign, seven do not appear in the absentee ballot request forms submitted by Dowless.
WBTV has identified two other absentee ballot operations in Bladen County, including one operated by two women paid by the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC.
Investigative Producer Corey Schmidt contributed to this report.