REPUBLICANS HAVE long insisted that elections are plagued by fraud. Evidence for that view is pleasingly sparse. But there is some. Take North Carolina’s Bladen County, which is home to a large chunk of the ninth district’s rural voters. The results from Bladen in the recent race between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris look strange. The county saw a disproportionately high number of voters requesting absentee ballots. A surprising number of these ballots were cast for the Republican candidate (see chart).
Just over a fifth of the county’s requested mail-in ballots came from Republicans, meaning Mr Harris would have also received almost all the registered unaffiliated voters and some Democratic-registered voters to make it to the 62% of the vote he supposedly won, according to Michael Bitzer of Catawba College.
The district is no stranger to absentee-ballot fraud. In 2016 the Republican primary candidate Todd Johnson won 98% of the absentee vote. In 2018 Mr Harris, then a primary candidate, won 96% of that vote. The common thread is Leslie McCrae Dowless, a consultant hired by both the Johnson and Harris campaigns. Mr Dowless’s services had previously been declined by Congressman Robert Pittenger for “personal concerns regarding his proposal.” Sworn affidavits and witness testimonies indicate that Mr Dowless collected vote-by-mail ballots from residents across Bladen County, collecting “stacks of them” on his desk; how many made it to the ballot box is unclear.