Day 1 of hearings into election fraud connected to Mark Harris’s campaign was quite the kickoff to what is shaping up to be very long week for him. From bombshell to bombshell, one thing was consistent: the mountain of evidence connecting Mark Harris to a “coordinated, unlawful” election fraud scheme grew every time a new witness took the stand.
Here are five key takeaways from Day 1:
1. Election Fraud in North Carolina’s 9th is no longer a question
Republicans in North Carolina, as well as Mark Harris’s criminal defense team, have gone to great lengths to contest whether significant election fraud occurred in North Carolina’s Ninth District. But now that Lisa Britt has admitted under oath to forging signatures on absentee ballot request forms at the direction of McCrae Dowless, whether fraud occurred is no longer in question. On top of forging witness signatures, multiple witnesses testified to the fact that workers for McCrae Dowless filled in uncompleted ballots, but not a single witness could answer for whether, or not, McCrae Dowless ever turned in the ballots they collected.
2. Mark Harris’s campaign and McCrae Dowless were in regular communication
Don’t take our word for it, just ask Dowless’ former wife who described how Dowless “would speak pretty frequently” by phone with Harris’ top advisor Andy Yates – with Dowless often taking the call on speakerphone. Another witness testified that she overheard Dowless and Yates discussing ballots. This clarifies that far from working as an independent actor, Dowless was checking in with, and closely tied to, the top of Mark Harris’ camp.
3. McCrae Dowless went to great lengths to cover up evidence of fraud – including potentially tampering with a witness.
A key witness describes the extraordinary steps Dowless took to cover his tracks, including sending ballots in small batches, sending from post offices close to the voter, using the same date as the voter signature, tracing over signatures in the same color ink as other witnesses/voters, and using different stamps.
McCrae’s moves to cover his tracks extended to an attempt at collusion, as well as possible witness tampering. After the state said flatly that “efforts were made to obstruct this investigation,” a key witness described how Dowless told everyone to “stick together” after fraud was uncovered and *last Thursday* pressured the witness into taking the 5th.
4. The scope of the fraud extends beyond returned absentee ballots
During the opening remarks of today’s hearing, State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach made it clear that the State’s investigation intoelection fraud extends beyond returned absentee ballots and into ballots requested, but never returned to the State Board of Elections. While Strach did not specify, this opens a major question of whether ballots were potentially discarded by operatives connected to Harris’s campaign. This broadens the scope of potential fraud far beyond the 905-vote margin of victory in NC-09, a crucial blow to the central Republican argument that the number of ballots impacted could not have changed the course of this election.
5. The State Board of Elections is “unwilling” to give Dowless immunity.
The final witness of the day’s proceedings was McCrae Dowless, the Mark Harris campaign operative at the center of the election fraud scheme in NC-09. Dowless’ attorney stated that he would only testify if granted immunity. After hours of testimony directly implicating Dowless in election fraud activities and obstruction, the Board of Elections stated they were “unwilling to give a witness here, and particularly Mr. Dowless, immunity.” Dowless left without providing testimony.