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The Man At The Center Of The North Carolina Voting Scandal Was Charged For His Handling Of Absentee Ballots

The indictment comes a week after the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a new election.

Posted on February 27, 2019, at 1:27 p.m. ET

Travis Long / Charlotte News and Observer

Leslie McCrae Dowless, the man at the center of the investigation into irregularities in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District voting controversy, was indicted on charges relating to his handling of absentee ballots in the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary.

Dowless was arrested Wednesday and charged with three counts of felonious obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and two counts of possession of absentee ballots, according to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office.

Four other people — Caitlyn E. Croom, Matthew Monroe Mathis, Tonia Gordon, and Rebecca Thompson — also face charges related to absentee ballot collection in Bladen County.

The indictment comes as a chaotic local midterm race became a national scandal after a lengthy investigation found that Dowless, a small-town political operative, was harvesting absentee ballots.

Evidence and testimony heard as part of the state’s election board investigation found that Dowless, who worked on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris, allegedly spearheaded an illegal operation where he paid volunteers to deliver and then collect absentee ballots. Workers testified before the state election board that they had repeatedly filled out ballots for residents.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections unanimously voted last week for a do-over of the contested election, calling the midterm race “tainted.”

A representative for Dowless’s attorney’s, Cynthia Singletary, told BuzzFeed News she had no comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.