Wake County DA clears Mark Harris, candidate in congressional race that led to election fraud investigation

Wake County DA clears Mark Harris, candidate in congressional race that led to election fraud investigation
Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 10:49 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - District Attorney Lorrin Freeman released a statement Wednesday, saying her office is clearing Republican Mark Harris when it comes to the criminal election fraud investigation into the 2018 congressional election.

Harris, a well-known pastor from Charlotte, ran for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District against Democrat Dan McCready, on election night garnering 905 more votes than the former marine.

After questions were raised about absentee ballot numbers in Bladen and Robeson County, that race ended up as the epicenter of an election fraud investigation that has so far led to multiple felony charges — but not against Harris.

“Following more than a year of investigation by multiple State and Federal agencies into the involvement of former Congressional candidate Mark Harris and the Harris Campaign into the absentee ballot operations in Bladen County during the 2018 General Election, our office has concluded that there is not evidence which would support a criminal case against Dr. Harris and therefore, is closing the matter as to him,” Freeman’s office announced Wednesday morning.

The criminal cases against those involved in the absentee ballot operations, namely McCrae Dowless, are ongoing.

Dowless is currently running for re-election to a local Bladen County seat as he awaits trial for several counts of federal election fraud.

Harris hired Dowless to help with his campaign in 2017, and claimed at the state elections board hearings into the matter that he had no idea Dowless was doing anything suspicious.

Harris’ own son, John Harris, who works for the U.S. Attorney’s office, disputed that, telling the board he warned his father something suspicious was going on in Bladen County.

At the conclusion of those hearings, Harris told the board he believed they should call for a new election. He later declined to run in that new election, citing health concerns.

Freeman’s office said the public’s trust in the electoral process is critically important, and praised Harris’ decision not to continue seeking the seat as a major step toward repairing that trust.

Harris responded through a spokesperson Wednesday afternoon:

“Nearly 600 days ago I told the voters of the 9th district that my campaign would fully cooperate with investigators in a process that would ultimately reveal insufficient evidence to overturn an election. I am personally grateful for the detailed investigation by the Wake County District Attorney and the cooperating federal and state agencies to finally restore my reputation. I trust the investigators will continue their work so North Carolina voters can be assured that their vote counts in a system that follows the rule of law.”

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