N.C. hope­ful sets terms for new vote

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - National - JONATHAN DREW In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Gary D. Robert­son and Emery P. Dale­sio of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Repub­li­can can­di­date in North Carolina’s un­re­solved con­gres­sional race said Fri­day that he would sup­port a new elec­tion if it’s proved that fraud changed the out­come of a con­test that was de­cided by 905 votes.

Mark Harris re­leased a video state­ment ad­dress­ing al­le­ga­tions of ab­sen­tee bal­lot fraud less than a day af­ter his cam­paign ac­knowl­edged in a fed­eral fil­ing that it owes $34,310 to a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant for work in a county where mail-in bal­lot problems emerged. The state Board of Elec­tions has re­fused to cer­tify elec­tion re­sults that give Harris a slim lead while it in­ves­ti­gates.

“If this in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds proof of il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity — on ei­ther side — to such a level that it could have changed the out­come of the elec­tion, then I would whole­heart­edly sup­port a new elec­tion to en­sure all vot­ers have con­fi­dence in the re­sults,” Harris said in the video.

He also said his cam­paign is co­op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but added: “I was ab­so­lutely un­aware of any wrong­do­ing.”

A Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fil­ing by the Harris cam­paign late Thurs­day re­ferred to money owed to the Red Dome Group for debts in­clud­ing: “Re­im­burse­ment Pay­ment for Bladen Ab­sen­tee, Early Vot­ing Poll Work­ers; Re­im­burse­ment Door to Door.”

Bladen County’s ab­sen­tee bal­lots are at the cen­ter of a fraud probe that prompted the state elec­tions board to refuse last week to cer­tify Harris as the win­ner over Demo­crat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th Dis­trict. The board cited al­le­ga­tions of “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and con­certed fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties” in­volv­ing mail-in bal­lots, and sub­poe­naed both the Harris cam­paign and Red Dome for doc­u­ments.

The board could or­der a new elec­tion af­ter meet­ing later this month to con­sider the ev­i­dence. For now, the vote count re­mains unof­fi­cial, with Harris lead­ing McCready by 905 votes in the dis­trict that stretches from the Char­lotte area east through sev­eral coun­ties.

Some Bladen County vot­ers have said strangers came to their homes to col­lect their ab­sen­tee bal­lots, whether or not they had been fully com­pleted or sealed in an en­ve­lope to keep them from be­ing al­tered, ac­cord­ing to af­fi­davits of­fered by the state Demo­cratic Party. State law al­lows only a fam­ily mem­ber or le­gal guardian to drop off ab­sen­tee bal­lots for a voter.

Red Dome hired Bladen County con­trac­tor McCrae Dow­less, whose crim­i­nal record in­cludes prison time in 1995 for felony fraud and a con­vic­tion for felony per­jury in 1992.

The state board is­sued a state­ment Fri­day con­firm­ing that Dow­less is a “per­son of in­ter­est” in the probe be­ing led by four elec­tions in­ves­ti­ga­tors with ex­pe­ri­ence in the FBI and other law en­force­ment agen­cies.

Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased by the elec­tions board, Dow­less seems to have col­lected the most ab­sen­tee bal­lot re­quest forms in Bladen County this fall. A copy of the Bladen elec­tion board’s log book shows Dow­less turned in well over 500 ap­pli­ca­tions.

McCready, ex­press­ing anger over what he called a shame­ful at­tack on democ­racy, with­drew his con­ces­sion in a video re­leased late Thurs­day. He’s de­mand­ing that Harris ex­plain what he knows about the ab­sen­tee bal­lot al­le­ga­tions.

“He hired a crim­i­nal who was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for bal­lot fraud to do his ab­sen­tee bal­lot work, and it looks like he got what he paid for,” McCready told CNN on Fri­day.

Harris McCready

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