North Carolina Republican in contentious race owes nearly $35K for absentee ballot work

The campaign of a North Carolina Republican candidate locked in a contentious election battle owes more than $34,000 in connection with absentee ballot and voter turnout operations, according to new filings. 

Mark HarrisMark HarrisNorth Carolina on cusp of House race reset North Carolina GOP operative accused of once possessing over 800 absentee ballots The Hill's Morning Report — Takeaways from the battle royal in the Oval Office MORE’s campaign disclosed in a filing with the Federal Election Commission late Thursday night that it owes $34,310 for “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door.” 

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The money is owed to Red Dome Group, a Charlotte-area consulting firm that Harris hired for his election bid in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District against Democrat Dan McCready.

Red Dome contracted with a Bladen County political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who has been accused of collecting absentee ballots. The filing with the FEC does not detail how the consulting firm spent the money or how much it paid Dowless.

The Hill has reached out to Red Dome for comment. 

Dowless is accused of collecting empty signed absentee ballots from voters and turning them in with votes for GOP candidates.

At least two people have come forward claiming Dowless paid them to collect ballots in their district. The ballots were never mailed in and instead were turned over to him.

Obtaining another person's absentee ballot is illegal under North Carolina law — ballots can only be mailed directly by voters to state election officials. 

Officials believe that more than a thousand absentee ballots from likely Democratic voters may have been destroyed, according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Dowless has denied involvement in any illegal activity, and Harris's campaign has called for the state board of elections to certify the race while continuing its investigation. Harris holds a lead of about 900 votes over McCready. 

"Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties. There is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race," Harris tweeted last Friday.

"The State Board of Elections should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District," he added.

Republicans and Democrats in the state both agree that an investigation should be launched into the allegations of elections fraud but the two sides disagree on who should conduct a probe.

McCready withdrew his concession in the race Thursday amid calls for a new election, demanding Harris "to tell us exactly what he knew and when he knew it."