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Exposing NC’s Corrupt Election Cartel

Nov 12, 2021

The Vote Collectors, by WBTV investigative journalist, Nick Oschner and Axios writer, Michael Graff, exposes how election officials targeted Republican campaign operative, Leslie “McCrae” Dowless, for a voter fraud “investigation,” after he helped the underdog, Rev. Mark Harris, succeed in two 2018 Congressional elections.

Harris and Dowless paid the price for winning a primary against a DC-establishment Republican and for winning a general election against the kind of a cookie-cutter, fake-conservative Democrat that flipped Congress that same year.

While national and international media camped outside the homes of Harris and Dowless that entire season, Nick Oschner had connected with Dowless, who gave Nick and Michael unlimited access. Their lengthy recorded interviews with him formed the basis for much of this three-part book.

The first section introduced the key players and recounted their actions up through the November, 2018 election. While it painted Dowless in a negative light, it also showed how indispensable he was for any Republican congressional candidate hoping to win in Bladen County, NC.

The second section elaborated on the racial component of the region, to include some original research into how the 1898 Wilmington Riots (or Coup) replaced North Carolina’s post-Reconstruction system with a Jim Crow-Democrat domination spanning 100+ years.

The third section returned to 2018, building the case that a few powerful Democrats and election officials ignored evidence of Democrat ballot-harvesting enterprises while coaching sketchy witnesses to target their lone Republican competitor.

In the end, a lawfully elected Congressman was forced to choose between either resigning his seat or facing perjury prosecution over some memory lapses he had during voluntary testimony in a bogus investigation.

My Reaction

Up front, Nick and Michael deserve lots of credit for unpacking the Wilmington Riots of 1898, thus revealing a dark part of NC history that we never learned in our Democrat-controlled “education” system. This book is on par with Zucchino’s award-winning book, Wilmington’s Lie.

At the same time, the two writers lost credit at the end of the book by tying that ugly KKK-Democrat Party spirit around the necks of the Trump loyalists who attended last year’s January 6 rally in Washington. The unforced error probably alienated around 75 million potential readers, but it may have bought the authors some serious cred among the academic elites who really need to read this book.

Besides that one blunder . . . I really like this book!

It’s written in a readable style that anybody can enjoy. At the same time, it hits the mark for scholarly rigor that will become part of the first draft historians will write about NC’s bizarre election of 2018.

Their insider access puts this book on the same reading list as Thirteen Ballots by Elizabeth Harris. Both are critical reading for any serious student of politics, election law, history, civil rights,judicial procedure, and a few other subjects that I forgot to mention.

On the subject of the blatant vote fraud in the Wilmington Coup, Chapter 17 described much of the statewide carnage inflicted on black voters in 1898. Here’s just one snapshot:

“Around 9 that [Election Day] night, about 150 white men surrounded one precinct [in Wilmington that] had ten Black voters for every white voter registered, making it an almost certain Democratic loss in a fair election.”

“The men, with white handkerchiefs around their arms, entered the precinct . . . knocked over an oil lamp and pulled guns. The Black election officials . . . ran out the door [while one man] stuffed Democratic ballots in the ballot boxes. . . . [as a result,] one Democratic candidate had received 456 votes in a precinct with only 343 total registered voters”.

“Similar stories played out throughout the region. By the next morning, Democrats owned ninety-four seats in the state House, compared to just twenty-three Republicans and three Populists. The state Senate now was forty Democrats, seven Republicans, and three Populists.”

The key question for today involves how we process this newfound information. While a constructive response involves empathy, humility, and reasoned dialogue, a destructive one has been to manipulate Black voters into equating voter ID with Jim Crow.

In the former case, election integrity advocates will engage in real dialogue with the actual voters from minority communities. In the latter, well-funded Leftist organizations will continue to hijack the debate for political gain and stir up racial strife.

Though a painful portion of this book, it helps start the dialogue.

Evidence Dowless Was Targeted?

My favorite aspect of this book is how Graff and Ochsner help confirm what we had suspected since the end of Harris’ 2019 evidentiary hearing:

Election officials either ignored or suppressed evidence of a much larger ballot-harvesting operation in neighboring Robeson County. At the same time, they ignored or suppressed stronger evidence that the Bladen Improvement Association PAC had engaged in exactly the crimes they were blaming on Dowless.

But, in order to persuade the public of his guilt, they smeared Dowless in media by leaking unfounded allegations by their star witness, a troubled woman named Lisa Britt.

Though a repeat felon, Britt had earned good money seeding absentee ballot applications for Dowless and then following up (or “harvesting”) to assist those same people as necessary.

Dowless insists he trained his workers to never “collect” or even touch ballots they had helped voters obtain.

Employee Britt even admitted as much during a strange television interview with Ochsner in McCrae Dowless’ living room. Weeks later, Britt told an entirely different story, accusing Dowless of myriad crimes.

She also told the court she had lied during her interview with Ochsner, who was in the audience.

MUCH later . . . after the TV crews wandered away, she came clean to the authors and blamed the SBE’s lead investigator, Joan Fleming, for coercing her false testimony.

Britt is quoted as saying about Fleming’s coercion, “She said I’m gonna miss out on my boys growing up.”

Back at the hearing, the same day Britt testified, another witness, named Precious Hall, testified that she received an unrequested absentee. A few days later, Lola Wooten and Sandra Goins, both from Bladen Improvement, paid her a visit. She explained how they watched her vote, signed the envelope as witnesses and then took the ballot with them.

Right there in front of God and everyone, Ms. Hall had fingered the Bladen Improvement Association PAC. Were they the real culprits of illegal ballot harvesting in Bladen County?

It might have been a worthwhile question.

Dirty Cop, Lawyers, and Leaders?

As if it were scripted, the attorney for Mark Harris changed the subject by asking Ms. Hall who she voted for, and the courtroom erupted into chaos.

According to Graff & Ochsner. “the attorneys . . .argued while Precious sat patiently through the banter. The chairman determined that she didn’t have to say who she voted for with that illegally harvested ballot, because the hearing wasn’t about Dan McCready, it was about Mark Harris.”

In other words, whether the organization working for the Democrat had committed the same crime in the same election didn’t matter anymore, because the Democrats’ activity wasn’t in question.”

Meanwhile, Elections Director Kim Strach, Chief Counsel Josh Lawson, and SBE Director of Investigations, Joan Fleming, all watched the exchange . . . without saying a word.

Why had Strach’s agency given Bladen Improvement Association PAC some sort of immunity from prosecution?

Graff & Ochsner suggest a similar immunity must have applied for everybody harvesting ballots in Robeson County . . . except, as we once noted, for the lone Dowless associate working in Robeson County, Jennifer Boyd.

At the hearing, Strach only revealed evidence of the 231 absentee request forms Boyd had delivered to Robeson County elections office. The other 2,038 ballots requested in that county were of no interest to the investigators.

When questioned about the missing evidence, Strach lamely stated “we were puzzled” over the irregularity.

They took no further action on the matter.

Thankfully, Graff and Ochsner noted a similar credibility problem with election officials during the proceedings.

A key narrative the agency shaped in order to smear Dowless and implicate Harris had to do with absentee ballots that were requested but never voted.

There are numerous reasons this happens in every election. Some people, as I did in 2020, simply request an absentee ballot and later decide to vote in person.

But in Dowless’ public lynching, he was to blame for the 595 Bladen absentee ballots that were never voted. At the same time, Strach’s agency didn’t care about who was responsible for 1,500 similarly missing ballots in Robeson.

Fast forward six weeks after the evidentiary hearing and we get Strach publicly admitting, “we did not find ballots that were harvested,” and there were only “one or two cases” where ballots “potentially” were collected and then not turned in.”

Bottom Line: The meticulous work by Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner in researching and writing The Vote Collectors will deeply impact the upcoming trial of Dowless.

We find it fitting that the release date of this devastating book also happens to be the same day that Dowless will walk into a Wake County courtroom and plead not guilty.

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Click image to launch the video podcast that elaborates on this review.