Former Congressional candidate Mark Harris won't face election fraud charges in absentee ballot investigation, DA says

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said former congressional candidate Mark Harris won't be charged in an election fraud investigation.

During the 2018 election, Republican candidate Mark 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.

Wednesday, Freeman said her office concluded there wasn't evidence to support a criminal case against Harris, and would therefore end the investigation into his involvement. However, Freeman said charges against multiple people, including Harris' former campaign employee Leslie McCrae Dowless, are still pending.

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.

"It is critically important that the public be able to trust the electoral process," Freeman said in a written statement. "Candidates for elected office have a duty to uphold the public's faith by not only following the law, but by exercising sound judgment."

Harris released the following statement following Freeman's announcement, expressing gratitude for the investigation:
"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."
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