Mark Harris claims he didn’t know about election fraud in N.C. race

February 21, 2019 GMT

In testimony before a North Carolina panel probing election fraud, Republican candidate Mark Harris said a key campaign operative assured him they were not breaking the law.

“He said we don’t touch ballots or take ballots,” Mr. Harris told the State Board of Elections that is trying to resolve a disputed House race nearly three months after the 2018 midterms.

The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, apparently lied to Mr. Harris, according to evidence presented by election officials at the hearing, which has lasted four days and could extend into next week.

The handling and collection of absentee ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina, is at the heart of fraud allegations that prevented the previous Election Board from certifying the Nov. 6 results that showed Mr. Harris beating over Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

The new board is tasked with deciding whether to certify the results or call a new election.

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As he planned his run in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Mr. Harris said he was introduced to Mr. Dowless as a “good ol’ boy” who “eats, lived, slept and drank politics.”

Mr. Dowless had a reputation for running an aggressive and proven operation to boost turnout and absentee ballot voting.

Election Director Kim Strach has called Mr. Dowless’ program “a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme.”

In North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone other than a voter or their close relative to mail in an absentee ballot.

But that’s what they did, according to testimony by workers involved in the program linked to the Harris campaign.

Red Dome Group, a consulting firm hired by the Harris campaign, contracted Mr. Dowless to run the absentee ballots operation, according to testimony.

Andy Yates, co-founder and senior partner at Red Dome Group, testified that he also did not know what Mr. Dowless allegedly was doing.

Mr. Harris’ son, John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, testified Wednesday that he warned his father that the absentee ballot drive looked fishy.

The elder Mr. Harris did not heed the warning.

“I had no reason to believe that my father or mother knew Dowless was doing the things that have been described,” the son said. “I think they were lied to, and they believed the person who lied to them.”

On the stand Thursday, the elder Mr. Harris said he was “very proud” of his son.