DA: No evidence to charge Mark Harris in NC District 9 election fraud investigation

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. — The Wake County district attorney announced Wednesday that Mark Harris will not be charged for his role in the absentee ballot operations in Bladen County during the 2018 general election.

After more than a year of investigating ballot fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, the Wake County DA has concluded that there is no evidence that would support a criminal case against Harris.

Below is the statement from District Attorney Lorrin Freeman:

“Following more than a year of investigation by multiple State and Federal agencies into the involvement of former Congressional candidate Mark Harris and the Harris Campaign into the absentee ballot operations in Bladen County during the 2018 General Election, our office has concluded that there is not evidence which would support a criminal case against Dr. Harris and therefore, is closing the matter as to him. Charges against multiple individuals including Mr. Mccrae Dowless who was hired by the Harris campaign remain pending and investigators continue probing other areas of evidence.

“It is critically important that the public be able to trust the electoral process. Candidates for elected office have a duty to uphold the public’s faith by not only following the law, but by exercising sound judgment. Dr. Harris’ decision to relinquish his seat and call for a new election in which he did not participate were important steps in restoring the confidence of the voters in District 9.”

During the 2018 election, Harris received 900 more votes in North Carolina ninth congressional district than his Democratic challenger, Dan McCready. However, officials said absentee ballots in the district, which includes Bladen and Robeson Counties, appeared suspicious, launching an election fraud investigation that is still ongoing.

In February 2019, the State Board of Elections announced they would run a new election for the district -- Harris later decided not to run. Following that election, Republican Dan Bishop was elected to the seat in September 2019.

Several other people, including the suspected ring leader, McCrae Dowless, are facing charges. Dowless is accused of paying workers to collect absentee ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina.

Dowless, Lisa Britt, Jessica Dowless, Ginger Eason, Kelly Hendrix, Woody Hester and James Singletary all have been charged in the investigation, as have Caitlyn Croom, Matthew Mathis, Tonia Gordon & Rebecca Thompson.

Dowless was indicted on charges of perjury and felony obstruction of justice in connection to the election. He also faces charges of obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballots in connection to his actions during the 2016 general election and 2018 primary. Dowless was arrested in February 2019.

On Wednesday, Harris released the following statement:

“Nearly 600 days ago I told the voters of the 9th district that my campaign would fully cooperate with investigators in a process that would ultimately reveal insufficient evidence to overturn an election. I am personally grateful for the detailed investigation by the Wake County District Attorney and the cooperating federal and state agencies to finally restore my reputation. I trust the investigators will continue their work so North Carolina voters can be assured that their vote counts in a system that follows the rule of law.”