North Carolina election officials are investigating potential wrongdoing in the U.S. House District 9 race.
Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of nearly 283,000 votes cast in all or parts of eight south-central counties encompassing the 9th District.
The results have not been certified, and the election is now in limbo after allegations of improper bonuses and ballots surfaced.
>> Nov. 6: Harris and McCready go head-to-head in the tight congressional race
>> Nov. 7: McCready concedes to Harris
>> Nov. 12: Harris heads to Washington, D.C. for orientation
>> Nov. 27.: North Carolina’s Elections Board delays finalizing the election results
The bipartisan board is investigating "claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting and potentially other matters in the 9th Congressional District contest." The board is composed of four Republicans, four Democrats and one unaffiliated member. The first vote to investigate the claims and not certify the results was unanimous.
>> Nov. 29: Channel 9 obtains several sworn affidavits laying out scathing allegations of mishandling elections in Bladen County results
The affidavits go into detail about unusual and illegal activities surrounding absentee ballots. One person claimed a woman came by her house to pick up her absentee-by-mail ballot, which was unsealed and unsigned. Another person also claimed a woman came by to pick up her ballot. The voter said she only selected two races and claimed the woman told her she would finish it for her. Other affidavits go into detail about absentee-by-mail ballots that voters didn’t request. Two affidavits also introduce us to the man who appears to be at the center of the investigation, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr.
>> Nov. 30: The North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement votes to hold an evidentiary hearing about irregularities in the election on or before Dec. 21
The board's discussions have been in closed session, so the specifics of the irregularities it's investigating have not been released.
>> Dec. 1: North Carolina State Board of Elections Chairman Andy Penry resigns
>> Dec. 2: Channel 9 digs into the past of Bladen County electioneer, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr.
Dowless is the vice chair of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District, an elected position. He is also an electioneer with a criminal past dating back to the 80s. He was convicted of passing a worthless check, perjury and felony fraud and served six months behind bars.
McCrae is well-known in Bladen County political circles. Campaign finance reports show his political involvement dates back to at least 2010.
>> Dec. 3: Channel 9 uncovers similarities between absentee ballots in Bladen County, an apparent targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots
A source provided Channel 9 with photocopies of 159 submitted and accepted absentee-by-mail envelopes. Unless a notary is present, each ballot has to be signed by two witnesses. What Channel 9 found was eight people signed as a witness for at least 10 ballots. Three people signed as a witness for more than 40 ballots. This in and of itself is rare.
Channel 9 spoke to one of those witnesses who said Dowless paid her $75 to $100 a week to pick up absentee ballots, which is illegal.
>> Dec. 4: Channel 9 speaks with a second woman who says she was paid to collect absentee ballots
>>Dec. 4: Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Harris will not be seated if allegations of election fraud carry over into next year
>>Dec. 5: State investigators spotted for the first time on the ground in Bladen County
Only Channel 9 was there as investigators left the apartment on Pecan Street in the Village Oak Apartments. Both had handfuls of papers and notepads. Three sources told Channel 9 the investigators were Kim Strach, the state’s chief elections official, and Joan Fleming, the NCSBE chief investigator.
>>Dec. 5: Subpoenas issued for the Mark Harris campaign, the Jim McVicker campaign and Red Dome, the political consulting firm hired by Harris, according to an NCSBE spokesperson.
>>Dec. 6: Senior North Carolina legislators call on governor to create bipartisan task force to investigate allegations of election fraud
Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg County, Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union County, and Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus County, held a news conference calling for Gov. Roy Cooper to create a bipartisan task force to investigate the election claims.
They said the investigation in absentee irregularities in Bladen County needs to be prompt, thorough and nonpartisan.
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