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North Carolina Republican operative charged in election fraud scheme

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The North Carolina Republican political operative at the center of an absentee ballot fraud scheme that led the state to order a re-run of a congressional election was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on Wednesday, officials said.

The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was charged with three felony counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiring to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots, the Wake County District Attorney’s office said in a statement.

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Allegations that operatives working for Dowless illegally collected, and sometimes filled in, absentee ballots on behalf of Republican Mark Harris’ campaign emerged shortly after the Nov. 6 election. They caused the state to hold off certifying Harris’ apparent narrow victory over Democrat Dan McCready.

The state Board of Elections, during four days of hearings last week, heard evidence of what election officials called a well-funded and well-organized campaign to tip the election for the state’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which stretches southeast from Charlotte.

The hearings ended with the board ordering a new election, with an official calling the first one an “absolute mess.”

The months-long scandal became an embarrassment to President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which has accused Democrats without proof of encouraging voter fraud in races such as the 2016 presidential election.

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Dowless has previously denied wrongdoing. His attorney, Cynthia Singletary, was not available to comment on Wednesday.

Four other people who worked for Dowless were each charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of possessing absentee ballots.

“These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud elections in North Carolina,” Kim Strach, executive director of the state election board, said in a statement on Wednesday. State officials will meet on Monday to set date for a new election, she added.

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Harris, who had appeared to win by 905 votes out of 282,717 ballots cast, said he would not make a second run for the seat. McCready does plan to run again.

Harris and his campaign officials have said they did not pay Dowless to do anything illegal. But Harris’ son, a U.S. Attorney, testified that he had warned his father of potential illegal activity by Dowless, causing elections officials to question whether Harris turned a blind eye to Dowless’ scheme.

Following his son’s testimony, Harris himself conceded that a new election was needed

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Dowless is due to appear in court on March 25.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Vegan parents who severely malnourished 10-month-old daughter to the point of bone loss will avoid jail time

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An Australian couple will avoid jail time and instead serve 300 hours of community service after they pled guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life for their 19-month-old daughter, Australian outlet 7News reported this Thursday.

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The Trump White House has long been plagued by record turnover and now Axios is reporting that yet another Trump administration official has found himself out of a job.

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