Juli Leonard / Pool / News and Observer
North Carolina prosecutors announced that Leslie McCrae Dowless, the politician accused of illegally collecting postal ballots in the state's 9th congressional district, had been charged with obstructing the election. justice and possession of postal ballots.
Election officials in North Carolina voted unanimously last week to hold a new election after four days of testimony. They explain how Dowless and his collaborators collected ballots by mail on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris, a crime under the law of the state.
After polling day, Harris had 905 votes more than Democrat Dan McCready in the unofficial vote count. But state officials, who were already monitoring Dowless's activities since at least 2016, refused to certify the results and opened an investigation.
During hearings before the State Elections Council last week, one of Dowless's associates, Lisa Britt, explained how Dowless had tried to interfere in the investigation of the state. the state, saying that he had told her, as well as to others "as long as we stay united, everything is fine because they have nothing on us. "
Britt recounted how Dowless had summoned him home before the hearings and had given him a letter that he wished she read to the audience.
"I can tell you that I have not done anything wrong since the election and that McCrae Dowless never told me to do anything, and to my knowledge, he has never nothing wrong, "reads the note. "But I'm taking the 5th amendment because I do not have a lawyer and I feel like you're going to try to deceive me."
Britt said that she was paid by Dowless to register people to vote and to collect ballots. She explained that Dowless had given specific instructions for returning ballots so as not to "raise red flags" with election officials: use the post offices near the voters and do not send never more than nine or ten voting envelopes at a time.
She said that she had "no idea" of the total number of newsletters she had picked up.
Dowless was summoned to the witness stand at the hearings but was not required to testify because, under the law in his state, he would have had immunity from future prosecution.
Harris announced Tuesday that he would not participate in the new elections. During his testimony before the State Elections Council last week, he denied knowing of any illegal acts committed in the name of his campaign. However, Harris's claims were undermined by the testimony of his son John, who said he warned his father against Dowless's tactics.
According to the Wake District Attorney's Office, Dowless is the subject of three counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to do so, and two counts of possession of ballots by mail. Four other people associated with Dowless are also named in the indictment.
Dowless was arrested Wednesday morning. The bond was set at $ 30,000 and Dowless was ordered to have no contact with those named in the indictments.
The other defendants are Caitlyn E. Croom, Matthew Monroe Mathis, Tonia Gordon and Rebecca Thompson. The prosecutor's office says that everyone faces a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice and a leader of possession of ballot by correspondence. Mathis is also accused of falsely signing the voter certificate on a ballot by correspondence.
In a statement, Kim Strach, executive director of the state's elections council, said the indictments "should serve as a strong warning to anyone attempting to defraud elections in North Carolina ".
Miles Parks from NPR and Rusty Jacobs from WUNC contributed to the writing of this article.