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Southern Baptist minister embroiled in election fraud controversy

Dec 5, 2018

By Jack Jenkins

The Rev. Mark Harris, a Southern Baptist pastor turned aspiring congressman, is facing allegations of election fraud in North Carolina, where authorities are investigating whether an operative for his campaign paid workers to take absentee ballots from voters illegally.

The probe is centered on Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was hired by the conservative political group Red Dome to work on voter turnout for Harris’ campaign for the U.S. House seat from the Charlotte area. State officials are following reports that Dowless led a team of workers in Bladen County to collect absentee ballots from voters — an act that may violate North Carolina laws that only allow individual voters or close relatives to mail a ballot.

Authorities are especially interested in whether ballots taken from voters who backed Harris’ opponent, Democrat and Marine Corps veteran Dan McCready, were ever returned to election officials. State datashow Bladen County saw unusually high numbers of mail-in ballot requests compared with other parts of the state, but also reported unusually high numbers of unreturned ballots, especially among African-American and Native American voters.

The current vote tally has Harris, who stepped down as pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church in June 2017 to run for the House, beating McCready by a margin of just 905 votes.

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