Worker at center of N.C. ballot fraud probe seeks local seat

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2018 photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless poses for a portrait outside of his home in Bladenboro, N. C. N.C. Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach warned in a January 2017 letter obtained by The Associated Press that those involved in illegally harvesting absentee ballots in rural Bladen County would likely do it again if they weren’t prosecuted. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

ELIZABETHTOWN — The political operative at the center of a North Carolina absentee ballot fraud investigation has filed for reelection for a local elected position.

Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. of Bladen County is running again for a board seat on the Bladen Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors. Dowless filed on Monday’s final day of candidate registration and will run against two other candidates in the nonpartisan race, the Bladen Journal reported.

Dowless faces both state and federal charges related to his political work.

Dowless and others were indicted last year in state court on charges involving ballot “harvesting” allegations during the 2016 and 2018 elections. A State Board of Elections investigation into the 2018 activities led members to order a new election for the 9th Congressional District seat that includes Bladen. That election occurred in 2019.

A federal grand jury also indicted Dowless in April on counts related to allegations he concealed money that he was paid for working for candidates during the 2018 election, leading to Social Security benefit fraud.

Dowless is seeking a second four-year term on the five-person board. which oversees efforts to conserve natural resources within the county. He currently serves as the board’s vice chairman.