by Sam Hieb
News & Observer reports on yet another absentee ballot controversy, this one involving the sheriff’s race in Columbus County. As it stands now, Republican challenger Jody Greene defeated Democrat incumbent Sheriff Lewis Hatcher by fewer than 40 votes.Greene has been sworn in as the new sheriff, but the board has yet to certify the results as allegations swirl around. And guess who’s in the middle of it all? None other than McCrae Dowless, the man in the middle of voter fraud allegations in the contested 9th District Congressional race between Mark Harris and Dan McCready:
Greene’s wife, Angie, said in an interview last week at the elections office: “We did not specifically hire McCrae Dowless. We hired Red Dome.”
She said neither she nor her husband had knowledge of anything illegal being done on behalf of the campaign.
“Our focus was on getting out our platform,” she said. “Our focus was not on absentee ballots.”
Dowless, however, may have had that focus.
Early in the election cycle, he went to the Columbus County elections office and introduced himself to the staff, said Jackie Bozeman, the office’s interim director, in an interview last week. She could not be reached by phone Thursday regarding the state board investigation. A woman who answered the phone there directed calls to Gannon.
Bozeman had heard of Dowless because she has a friend who works in elections in Bladen County, but she said she hadn’t seen Dowless in Columbus County before.
Dowless told Bozeman to expect a woman who worked for him, Lisa Britt, to bring in absentee ballot request forms.
And Britt did – about 150 forms in all, Bozeman said.
Dowless also continued to drop by. He was requesting records that many political campaigns request, Bozeman said.
“I just thought he was the new guy on the block,” she said. “He didn’t throw up a red flag for me.”
State elections board spokesman Pat Gannon told the N&O the board won’t hear the Columbus County race until the board holds a hearing on the congressional district results. In other words, wait in line.