Will Mark Harris ever take his seat in Congress? The prospects look dim if local media keeps digging up people willing to admit on camera that they broke the law — even if doing so unknowingly. Roll Call reported yesterday that one woman whose name appears as a witness on 28 absentee ballots admitted to “harvesting” them from voters:
A North Carolina woman on Tuesday admitted to illegally “harvesting” ballots for a campaign operative working for GOP candidate Mark Harris in the race for the state’s 9th District U.S. House seat.
Ginger Eason, a Bladen County resident, told a reporter for WSOC-TV on Tuesday that she had done campaign work for Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who paid her $75 to $100 per week to collect absentee ballots in the county and deliver them to him. …
“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots,” Eason told WSOC-TV, adding that she never looked to see whom people had voted for. She gave the ballots to Dowless.
That’s, um, illegal in North Carolina. Absentee ballots are supposed to go directly from the voter to the election board to prevent fraudulent intervention in the voting process. This appears to be the first direct corroboration of illegal “harvesting” activity directed by Dowless, who has already become a central figure in the controversy in the NC-09 election.
It wasn’t the last direct connection, either. The initial news report came from local TV reporter Joe Bruno, who tracked down the names that repeatedly appeared as witnesses on the absentee ballots collected by Dowless and Red Dome in the district. Most of them refused to speak to Bruno, but not Eason:
What Channel 9 found appears to be a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board.
Consistently, Channel 9 found the same people signing as witnesses for the people voting, which is very rare. …
Bruno then visited Ginger Eason. She told him why her name appeared so many times as a witness.
“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots,” Eason said.
Eason said Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr. paid her $75 to $100 a week to go around and pick up finished absentee ballots.
This morning, Bruno followed up with another repeated signatory on the absentee ballots. Cheryl Kinlaw signed off as a witness on thirteen ballots, and told Bruno the same story as Eason:
Like the woman I interviewed yesterday, Kinlaw never mailed the ballots. She gave them to McCrae Dowless. She doesn't know what he did with them afterward. She says she has no doubt Dowless wanted Mark Harris and Sheriff Jim McVicker to win. pic.twitter.com/8zQeZvFo4g
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 4, 2018
Bruno’s still trying to reach the other super-witnesses:
Cheryl Kinlaw dropped the ballots off to McCrae Dowless at this building off of NC 410 Hwy in Bladen County. On the front door? A Mark Harris bumper sticker #NC09 #NCPOL @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/DyQkx5RCWv
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 4, 2018
Looks like Bruno has more stories to mine from that list, especially the person who listed an invalid address on the ballot. The more these stories come out, the more likely the board will be to reject the results and order a special election — perhaps even a new set of primaries, as there are indications that Dowless may have crossed the line in getting Harris narrowly elected. Harris is arguing that the number of ballots with harvester signatures as witnesses don’t amount to enough to reverse his 905-vote lead, but the question is whether Dowless passed along all of the ballots that got harvested. The two counties Dowless operated had substantially higher non-return rates for absentee ballots than in the rest of the district; it’s at least a possibility that Dowless spiked some ballots after having illegally gotten custody of them.
The board might have to conduct a new election just to keep Democrat Dan McCready from getting seated. Don’t forget that the House of Representatives has the authority under the Constitution to determine the legitimacy of elections to the chamber. According to the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969, McCready could challenge Harris’ certification, forcing the Committee on House Administration to judge whether the election was valid. They can recommend a number of options, including a new election — or they can certify McCready as the legitimate winner. All it takes is a simple majority to accept a recommendation on a challenge.
And guess who’ll be making that decision? Democrats will have the majority by the time a challenge can be addressed, and there seems to be at least enough questionable/illegal activity to justify some sort of intervention if the state itself doesn’t act first. Unless the board orders up a new election, Nancy Pelosi might end up having the only vote that matters.