The key figure in a North Carolina absentee ballot investigation that led to a redo of a congressional election has died.
The daughter of Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., Andrea Dowless Heverly, wrote that her father “passed away peacefully” Sunday morning.
Dowless had been diagnosed with an advanced form of lung cancer and died at his daughter’s home, his friend, Jay DeLancy, told the Associated Press.
He was awaiting trial on state charges of illegal ballot handling, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, all in connection to absentee ballot activities for the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary and general elections. Six others were also charged.
State officials were told by witnesses that in 2018, Dowless, along with his assistants, gathered hundreds of absentee ballots from Bladen County. The assistants testified that they were told to collect blank or incomplete ballots, forge signatures on them, and fill in votes for candidates.
The results for the 2018 general election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District were thrown out as a result, and a new election was ordered by the State Board of Elections. At the time, Dowless was working for Republican candidate Mark Harris. No charges were filed against Harris.
With Dowless’ death, the case against him is now moot. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Sunday that her office will still move forward in prosecution of other defendants, though Dowless was seen as the key figure of the investigation, telling the AP that “all of the other cases to some degree were derived from what the state thought was his master plan and coordination.”