North Carolina race shines light on 'ballot harvesting'

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Earlier Thursday, North Carolina Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse told CNN he would support a new election if the elections board proves allegations of fraud are true and impacted the outcome of the race. But the GOP now finds one of its own candidates at the center of the biggest alleged election fraud in recent memory.

Campaign finance records show Dowless has been paid more than $23,000 by six campaigns over the last eight years - and in most of those races, his candidates got disproportionately large numbers of absentee votes in Bladen County.

It's not clear when the North Carolina Board of Elections will take another step in the Harris-McCready election.

Documents released late Tuesday by the elections board as part of its investigation show Dowless appears to have been the top collector of Bladen County absentee ballot requests this fall.

Pelosi, who's nominated to become House speaker when Democrats take control in January, said that "any member-elect can object to the seating and the swearing-in of another member elect".

The state elections board and prosecutors are focusing on a rural county in the 9th Congressional District, where unofficial results show the Republican with a narrow lead over the Democrat.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that Republicans should be concerned as well, because Dowless also operated in the GOP primary, and the allegations have significance beyond North Carolina.

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North Carolina election officials are investigating whether an operative working on behalf of Harris illegally collected incomplete ballots from voters in the state's 9th Congressional District. Dowless, moreover, may have been running schemes like this for years, financed partially by contributions from the Bladen County Republican Party. "This is about undermining the integrity of our elections, and what was done there was so remarkable and that those entities got away with it, even to the detriment of Republicans in the primary". She also noted the investigative power of the House to determine race winners.

As for Harris, he insists he supports an investigation into voter fraud, but that it won't change the outcome.

In affidavits offered by the state Democratic Party, some Bladen County voters have described that people came to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, whether or not they had been fully completed or sealed in an envelope to keep them from being altered. But the state elections board refused to certify the results last week in view of "claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities" involving mail-in ballots in the district. "Dowless' efforts were widely known, and we did share our concerns with several people", declining to elaborate on who he spoke to or what he said.

The state Board of Elections, charged with conducting the investigation, is also in turmoil. The state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said it wouldn't certify the results of the race between Harris and McCready. He has denied any wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer.

He recalled concluding that Harris had won the overall vote with a strong showing from evangelical voters, but he said: "We did not look real specifically at absentee ballots".

There's now new evidence that links Dowless to Robeson County and suggests he employed at least one person there: Jennifer Boyd, who served as one of two legally required witnesses for an unusually high number of people, 55, when they filled out their absentee ballots, according to a WSOC review of the forms.

"We're not ready to call for a new election yet", Woodhouse added, but that's still a long way from Woodhouse's position nine days ago.

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