RALEIGH, N.C. – The son of Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris said Wednesday that he had warned his father several times that he believed that a political officer placed at the center of an investigation for voter fraud had already used illegal tactics to win votes.
John Harris, currently an American lawyer in Raleigh, said he informed his father, in conversations and emails, that he thought Leslie McCrae Dowless was "suspicious" and appeared to have illegally collected postal ballots in 2016 while he was working for another Republican candidate in North Carolina. 9th district of Congress.
Young Harris, 29, said he had advised his father when he planned to use Dowless to run his mail-in voting program during the 2018 congressional race. expressed similar concerns to Andy Yates, the campaign's chief strategist. Mark Harris hired Dowless despite his son's concerns, which he expressed from the spring of 2017.
At one point in his testimony, John Harris's voice broke and his father cried.
"I thought what he was doing was illegal and I was right," said John Harris about Dowless. He added, "I had no reason to believe that my father really knew it, or that my mother or any other campaigner knew of it. I think Dowless told them he was not doing it that way and they believed him. "
Harris's dramatic testimony refuted the claims of his father, a 52-year-old evangelical minister, and Yates, who testified nearly eight hours earlier on Thursday that they did not know everyone was aware that Dowless would break the law. The investigators also shared an email between father and son in which the youngest Harris had written: "A good test is to find out if you are comfortable with the complete process that he uses and who is broadcast on news. "
John Harris's report ended on the third day of testimony before the North Carolina Elections Council, which this week is hearing evidence of whether an alleged vote-altering ploy has undermined the outcome. in the 9th district, where Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready to 905 votes. in unofficial statements. The district stretches along the border between South Carolina, Charlotte and rural eastern North Carolina.
The election, the country's last indecisive Congress race, has been in limbo since November, when the board of directors refused to certify a winner and launched an investigation. The decision of the council of accreditation or the calling of new elections will wait at least another day, the former Harris to open his testimony Thursday morning.
Young Harris told the council on Wednesday that he had started studying ballot counts in the 9th district in June 2016, when his father lost the Republican primary to Robert Pittenger, who was then in power. . In the tiny Bladen County, Harris and Pittenger had drastically lost the vote among postal voters for the benefit of a third candidate, Todd Johnson, who had hired Dowless to manage his absentee program.
John Harris explained that he had searched the numbers and found that the ballot papers posted for Johnson had arrived "in batches" in the county electoral offices – which he said suggested that they had been illegally collected by the agents of the campaign. In North Carolina, collecting and returning another elector's ballot is a crime. Harris said that he had then spoken to his father about his suspicions.
Dowless, 63, a native of Bladen County who refused to testify this week not to incriminate himself, is accused of having done so in the 2018 cycle – hiring a team workers to collect, sign, falsify and illegally ballot papers.
Yates and Harris denied knowledge of these alleged tactics. But in another 2016 email posted on Wednesday, both Harrises discussed this year's anomalies, as well as the irony that Dowless had filed a complaint with election officials that Democrats would have used similar tactics in Bladen County.
"I imagine that he did not like the Dems doing business!" Writes the elder Harris.
In a television interview in early January, Mark Harris told Spectrum News in Raleigh that information, including one in the Washington Post that he was warned of Dowless's alleged tactics, was false.
In his testimony on Wednesday, the young Harris also questioned the account of Yates, whose political consulting firm, Red Dome Group, had paid Dowless on behalf of the campaign.
John Harris said that he was surprised to hear of the little control exercised by Yates to make sure that Dowless was rendering the services for which he was being paid. He was also surprised to hear Yates say he was shocked to learn of Dowless's alleged tactics once the investigation opened in November.
"Mr. Yates said he was shocked and disturbed by the testimony," said Younger Harris. "I was disturbed.
Harris said that after warning Yates of Dowless, "Andy assured me," Yes, we will make sure that he will do what he says he's going to do. " . "
But in his testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday, Yates described an arrangement in which there was little control or responsibility for Dowless's activities. For example, he asked for a payment for submitting many more ballot request forms – a legal activity – than the documents submitted later were actually submitted.
John Harris emphasized his belief that his parents did not know about Dowless's alleged tactics, but he also acknowledged in heartbreaking testimony that they "wanted" to believe in Dowless – perhaps against their better judgment.
Young Harris asked the Elections Committee if he could make some concluding remarks once the lawyers had finished their interrogations.
"I love my father and I love my mother," he said. "I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family account to settle. I think they made mistakes in this process and that they certainly did things differently from what I would have done them. "
Harris has also criticized both parties for working harder to protect their political interests than for protecting the integrity of the electoral process.