State Board of Elections issues subpoenas to Harris campaign, others in 9th District flap

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Officials investigate possible voter fraud in Bladen County

The State Board of Elections confirmed to ABC11 on Wednesday that it has issued subpoenas to Mark Harris's campaign, Red Dome Group, and Jim McVicker's campaign as part of an ongoing investigation into election fraud. McVicker is the Sheriff of Bladen County.

Last week, the NCBOE declined to certify the election results in a 7-2 vote. Republican Harris is currently leading Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, but the BOE is set to hold an evidentiary hearing to review over "claims of numerous irregularities" and "concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee mail ballots."

That hearing must take place by December 21.

"There is no study of wide-scale election fraud like this, because certainly in recent times it's not something that happens," said Dr. Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Much of the investigation focuses on McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County political operative contracted by Red Dome Group, a North Carolina-based political consultancy group. According to WSOC-TV, records show the Harris campaign paid Red Dome more than $428,000 for its work.

Witnesses say Dowless paid them to illegally collect absentee ballots in the 9th District.

In a statement to the Washington Post earlier this week, Harris campaign chief consultant Andy Yates said Harris "was aware of Red Dome's relationship with Mr. Dowless and believes like I do that Mr. Dowless operated within the bounds of the law."

"It strikes at the heart of democracy and is a fraud perpetrated on all of us. And that's something that should concern every American," said Dr. Greene.

The NCGOP has called for NCBOE to certify the results as they continue their investigation.

The NCGOP also paid Red Dome Group thousands of dollars during the 2018 campaign. According to NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse, the payment from the NCGOP to Red Dome came from a 'state account,' for mailing services for local and state candidates, and noted the money legally could not have been spent on federal races.

Woodhouse added the NCGOP had nothing to do with absentee ballots in question in Bladen County. The NCGOP has not been issued a subpoena by the State Board of Elections, and Woodhouse said they do not expect one.

On Thursday, ABC11 obtained a letter written by Bladen County District Attorney Jon David in January to the State Board of Investigations which discussed three cases the BOE is investigating. The NCBOE opened the cases in November 2016.

One of those cases concerns "voter fraud allegations and possible false statements to affect election outcome allegedly perpetrated by McCrae Dowless."

The letter further stated that the case involving Dowless "alleges criminal behavior which occurred in Wake County."

The Wake County District Attorney's Office is investigating.

ABC11 reached out to McCrae and Red Dome Group; neither returned requests for comment.
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