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North Carolina GOP Operative Faces New Felony Charges That Allege Ballot Fraud

GOP operative Leslie McCrae Dowless was arrested in February 2017 and charged with illegal ballot handling and obstruction of justice. New charges were filed Tuesday.
Wake City-County Bureau of Identification via AP
GOP operative Leslie McCrae Dowless was arrested in February 2017 and charged with illegal ballot handling and obstruction of justice. New charges were filed Tuesday.

Prosecutors in North Carolina filed new felony charges against a Republican political operative accused of ballot tampering in a congressional election in 2018.

Leslie McCrae Dowless was charged Tuesday with two counts of felony obstruction of justice, perjury, solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and illegal possession of absentee ballots, according to a statement by Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

The charges relate to the tainted 9th congressional district election last year in which Republican Mark Harris led in the unofficial vote tally by a margin of about 900 votes over Democrat Dan McCready. But the election results were overturned by the state after an investigation into an absentee ballot operation on Harris' behalf suggested that Dowless had improperly collected and possibly tampered with ballots.

Harris was not mentioned in the indictment and he chose not to run in the new election to be held this fall. That race will pit McCready against Republican Dan Bishop.

Dowless was indicted along with seven alleged co-conspirators. The operative was the alleged ringleader in a scheme instructing his co-conspirators to sign certifications that falsely stated they had seen a voter vote by absentee ballot, and improperly mailing in absentee ballots for someone who had not mailed it themselves.

This is the second set of charges for Dowless, who was arrested in February and accused of interfering in the district's primary election. He was charged then with three counts of felonious obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots.

State and federal authorities are still investigating the case, according to Freeman's statement.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.

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