7 charged in 9th District absentee ballot fraud investigation make first court appearance

BLADENBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- The seven people accused in an absentee ballot fraud investigation in North Carolina's 9th District appeared in a Wake County courtroom on Monday morning.

The group is facing charges after allegedly illegally gathering absentee ballots from voters.

All parties turned themselves in on Thursday -- just days after a Wake County grand jury returned indictments on the individuals Tuesday.

Among them is Leslie McCrae Dowless, the political operative at the center of the case. He was charged with felony obstruction of justice, perjury, felony solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot.

Others charged include: Lisa M. Britt, Ginger S. Eason, Woody D. Hester, James R. Singletary, Jessica H. Dowless and Kelly Hendrix. They all asked for a court-appointed attorney.

Dowless hired his own attorney, Tim Manning, and left the courtroom without comment.

No date has been set for the next appearance.

The State Board of Elections, which ordered a new election in the 9th District, issued the following statement Tuesday:

Today's indictments are a product of an extensive investigation by the State Board of Elections, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman's office and the State Bureau of Investigation.

The State Board has a dedicated division that investigates reports of election law violations and refers them to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence, as it did in this case.

The absentee ballot fraud that occurred in the 9th Congressional District effectively disenfranchised voters in that district.
North Carolina voters should be confident that state officials will continue to be vigilant and pursue any individuals or organizations that attempt to undermine our elections. Democracy is best served by holding those who attempt to thwart it accountable.

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