DA ‘troubled’ by Bladen vote allegations, says other probes already open

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Bladen County District Attorney Jon David says he is “deeply troubled” by allegations of voter fraud in November’s election. He also says the claims come while previous accusations are already being investigated.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) will hold a hearing this month about claims about irregularities and questions about absentee ballots in Bladen County that are holding up elections for the 9th Congressional District, Bladen County Commission District 3 and Bladen County Soil & Water Conservation Supervisor.

Affidavits filed with the NCSBE accuse McCrae Dowless, a long-time political operative in the county and a soil & water conservation supervisor, of being behind issues with absentee votes. It’s not the first time Dowless’s name has come up in this sort of investigation.

“Sadly, there have been past incidents of alleged fraud involving absentee ballots in Bladen County,” David said in an emailed statement. “During the 2016 election cycle, complaints about this problem were made to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Team (NCSBE). This agency began investigating the matter in November 2016 and subsequently partnered with the State Bureau of Investigation to expand the probe. The investigation uncovered the fact that some of the offending behavior occurred in Wake County.”

David says back in January, the 2016 allegations were turned over to the Wake County DA.

David also shared a letter from January 26 to Special Agent Dirk German, the Interim Assistant Director of the NC State Bureau of Investigation, about the allegations.

According to the letter, SBI was to review three NCSBE investigations about the 2016 elections in Bladen County. Those investigations included possible absentee ballot fraud by Patriots for Progress IE PAC and the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, as well as “voter fraud allegations and possible false statement to affect election outcome allegedly perpetrated by McCrae Dowless.”

“Bladen County has a troubled history of political groups exploiting the use of absentee ballots in an effort to skew support for a specific candidate or group of candidates. Indeed, as a local elected official myself, I have had numerous encounters with various such groups, some of whom are the subject of the above stated cases,” David wrote in the January letter to German. “These groups package the anticipated ability to garner absentee ballots as a commodity to be brokered. As a candidate, I have never engaged the services of any group to get out the vote (GOTV) and as District Attorney I have been outspoken in my criticism of their efforts.”

David also cited a 2010 WWAY story about Dowless’s “effort to get out the vote for the benefit of my opponent, Harold ‘Butch’ Pope.”

Because of his “personal history” with the groups in question and Dowless, David wrote, “I perceive a conflict of interest in my office handling perspective litigation.” Because the case against Dowless alleged crimes in Wake County, David agreed to let Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman handle them.

WWAY tried to reach Dowless last week about the latest allegations against him, but have not heard back.

Yesterday, though, our ABC affiliate in Charlotte WSOC spoke briefly to Dowless at his home, but he had no comment.

WSOC did talk with Ginger Eason, who admitted that Dowless paid her to pick up absentee ballots, which is why her name appears as the witness on so many of them.

Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes in the 9th Congressional District race, but the NCSBE decided last week to hold off on certifying the results until it could hold the hearing on the Bladen County issues. Harris won the county despite far more registered Democrat voters.

Categories: Bladen, Local

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