Election-Stealing Attorney Signals Big Trouble for N.C. GOP in 9th District

‘As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias … they miraculously started finding Democrat votes…’

(Paul A. Specht, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Democrats have dispatched Perkins Coie attorney Marc Elias—branded by President Donald Trump as their “best Election stealing lawyer” to represent 9th District challenger Dan McCready, signaling bigger problems for embattled Republican winner Mark Harris.

Elias had a rare defeat earlier this year when he was unable to reverse the outcome of the Florida race in favor of Democrat Bill Nelson. However, his track record of using legal challenges and recounts to flip seats—including helping to secure the 2016 victory for current North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper over then-incumbent Pat McCrory—is reason for state GOP leaders to worry.


Elias rose to prominence after securing a narrow victory for Sen. Al Franken, D.-Minn., in the 2008 election, giving Democrats in the Senate the supermajority they needed to pass legislation like Obamacare. Some alleged that among the mysterious ballots that kept turning up to put Franken over the edge in contested districts were many from convicted felons and others who were ineligible to vote.

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Marc Elias/IMAGE: YouTube

Elias also has fought legal battles over redistricting, one of which resulted in the redrawing of the N.C. map that put contested Bladen County into the 9th District. And he represented many high-powered Democrats in other areas, including commissioning the work of Fusion GPS on the infamous “Steele Dossier” that the Hillary Clinton campaign—and later the FBI—used to smear Trump.

While often on the receiving end of election fraud accusations, Elias will be the one making them in the current 9th District battle, in which evidence continues to mount that contracted political operative McCrae Dowless illegally harvested ballots on behalf of Harris and other local candidates.

An investigation into Bladen County and at least two other counties is approaching its second month now after the State Board of Elections surprised everyone in refusing to certify the race in late November. It appears increasingly likely that the board’s findings—due in January—will result in a do-over election this spring, though the terms of it, including whether it would include a primary race have also been in dispute.

A new affidavit filed by Elias alleges that Dowless—and possibly others—were provided special access to confidential information at the county’s Board of Elections office. A Democratic organization called the Bladen County Improvement Association also has been accused of illegal ballot activity, although it is unclear whether the affidavit specifically implicates it.

Dowless and other area residents are alleged to have mishandled absentee ballots, according to affidavits previously submitted to the state elections board. The latest affidavits, publicized via an online portal, echo previous tampering allegations and may offer a glimpse into Dowless’ relationship with Bladen County election officials.

Bladen County election board staff allowed Dowless to “take and copy unredacted absentee ballot request forms, which include social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, state ID numbers, and signatures,” according to Jens Lutz, a former vice chair of the Bladen elections board who resigned in mid-December.

Lutz, who previously served as chairman of the Bladen County Democratic Party, started a now-defunct political consulting firm with Dowless in 2014. But Lutz told Wilmington-based TV station WCET that he only wanted to “figure out how he was operating.”

Earlier this month, in a statement from his lawyer, Dowless denied breaking any federal or state campaign laws.

Lutz’s testimony to the state elections board is similar to what he told The Associated Press for a story published Dec. 15. In his affidavit, Lutz describes the Bladen County elections board security as “lax” and claims there were “multiple instances” in which the actual absentee ballot totals didn’t match what the staff reported.

His allegations follow those of Agnes Willis, a Bladen County precinct worker who wrote in a Nov. 29 affidavit that early voting election results were “viewed by officials at the one-stop site who were not judges,” McClatchy previously reported.


McCrae Dowless/IMAGE: aDDmoreJuice TV via Youtube

As for Dowless, Lutz claims in an affidavit that Dowless used public records laws to determine when voters would receive absentee ballots, “allowing Mr. Dowless to send his workers to those voters right after the ballots arrived.”

Because the race of voters is included on the county reports about absentee ballot requests, “Mr. Dowless could have used it to target African American voters,” Lutz told the board.

“On one occasion in the fall of 2018, I witnessed Mr. Dowless pressuring Board staff to provide this information to him,” Lutz testified. “I confronted Mr. Dowless and told him that the Board office was closed. He responded angrily, and my fellow Board of Elections member, Mr. [Bobby] Ludlum, went outside to explain the situation, after which he left the Board of Elections.”

Ludlum was aware of some of Dowless’ activities, according to an affidavit filed by Ben Snyder, chairman of the Bladen County Democratic Party.

Snyder says he heard Dowless was “intentionally losing voters’ absentee ballots.” His source is Ludlum, who relayed details of a conversation between Dowless and Cynthia Shaw, the Bladen County Board of Elections director.

“While the exact language of each party is not certain, I understand the substance of this conversation was generally as follows: Dowless: ‘Well, I have added a new trick’

Shaw: ‘What is it?’

Dowless: ‘I am throwing ballots into the trash.'”

Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.

(c)2018 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.