Harris, who leads his Democratic opponent Dan McCready by 905 votes in North Carolina’s 9th district, said that his campaign is cooperating with investigators and that he would support holding a new election if the state board determines that illegal activity occurred.
“If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results," Harris said in a video posted to Twitter.
In the carefully worded statement, Harris did not directly address the question of whether any potential wrongdoing was committed by people working on behalf of his campaign. Instead, he simply said he was unaware of any possible malfeasance.
“Although I was absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing, that will not prevent me from cooperating with this investigation,” Harris said. A week ago, Harris had been more adamant in urging the board to immediately certify the race.
Since then, the severity of the alleged election fraud has become clearer, as have the links to Harris’ campaign.
On Thursday night, his campaign disclosed in a Federal Election Commission filing that it owed more than $34,000 for “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door.” The money was owed to Red Dome Group, a consulting firm that had been hired for the campaign.
That group is significant because it contracted L. McCrae Dowless Jr.—an operative in Bladen County who has been accused of collecting absentee ballots from voters in an illegal manner—to ensure that Harris won the election. Eyewitnesses have been interviewed by local media admitting to helping Dowless pick up ballots.
It is illegal in North Carolina to collect or tamper with someone else’s ballot.
The focus of investigators, according to local and national reporting, has been on Dowless' efforts and whether his operation filled out ballots or simply discarded them. According to a report in The Washington Post, Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger, who Harris defeated (also narrowly) in the primary, raised concerns about Dowless' actions to the North Carolina Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC denied this, however.
On Friday afternoon, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement confirmed in a statement to The Daily Beast that “Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. is a person of interest in connection with an alleged absentee ballot operation in the congressional district.”
The Board also said that four Board investigators are working full-time on the matter and they are being led by Chief Investigator Joan Fleming who has "specialized in fraud investigations during her 26-year tenure as an FBI special agent." The Board has also issued subpoenas to Red Dome Group and the Mark Harris for Congress Committee.
In late October and early November, the Board said that they mailed letters to about 2,000 voters in Bladen County who had requested ballots for the general election. These were sent after "concerns surfaced about new, potentially criminal absentee ballot activities" and the letters informed voters that records indicated they requested these ballots and told them their rights in the absentee voting process. The letters also had a hotline number that voters could call if they did not request a ballot or anyone else tried to take or fill out a ballot for them.
"It was mailed as an attempt to deter perpetrators of any questionable absentee ballot activities going on in that county, as well as to encourage new sources to come forward in the investigation," the Board said on Friday. "The hotline received 10 calls in response to the mailing, and that evidence is being considered by investigators."
On November 27, the Board made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member voted unanimously to not certify results of the election. A subsequent vote was held on November 30 that was 7-2 in favor of not certifying.
A public evidentiary hearing is expected to be held on or before December 21.
Due to the ongoing investigation, McCready withdrew his concession on Thursday. “I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to NC and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people's very right to vote,” McCready tweeted. “Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when.”