NEW YORK – 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, the Wake County district attorney’s office 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, according to the district attorney’s statement. He is due to appear in court on March 25.
The indictment follows a state investigation into voting irregularities in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district that found evidence Dowless had organized illegal absentee ballot collection to tip the race in favor of Republican candidate Mark Harris.
Dowless has previously denied wrongdoing. His attorney, Cynthia Singletary, was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday.
The state’s elections board last week described the election as an “absolute mess,” pronounced its results tainted by the scheme and ordered a new election for the seat.
Harris, who was leading the race by 905 votes when allegations of irregularities arose, said he would not make a second run for the seat. Dan McCready, the Democrat who ran against Harris, does plan to run again.