RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Newly released correspondence shows the man at the center of a North Carolina absentee ballot probe declined a formal request this week to be interviewed by elections board investigators.
The State Board of Elections released a letter, dated Dec. 16, to an attorney for Leslie McCrae Dowless. The board's letter to attorney Cynthia Singletary requests an interview with Dowless, but notes that the board isn't invoking its power to compel testimony.
The letter also informs the attorney that her client's alleged actions during the 2018 election and before are "under criminal investigation" by the board's investigators. They are looking into irregularities with the Nov. 6 vote in the state's 9th District.
Singletary declined the board's interview request on Tuesday.
Dowless and Singletary didn't respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday. Singletary has previously said her client didn't break any campaign laws.
Investigators for the North Carolina Board of Elections wrote earlier this year that they had uncovered evidence that a local campaign operative had employed workers to encourage people to ask for absentee ballots and then collect them in the 2016 elections.
Three voters registered formal complaints with Bladen County elections officials saying that people subsequently identified as working for Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. had come to their houses to encourage them to request absentee ballots, according to a summary of the state board's investigation dated Jan. 23, 2018, on the board's letterhead.
The investigators write that they also developed evidence that Dowless tried to obstruct the investigation related to the 2016 election. It adds that evidence indicates that Dowless "was paying certain individuals to solicit absentee request forms and to collect absentee ballots from Bladen County voters."
It is against the law in North Carolina for anyone other than a voter or immediate family member to handle someone's absentee ballot before it is sealed and mailed.
North Carolina elections officials had sought criminal charges after the 2016 election against the man now at the center of absentee ballot fraud allegations, but prosecutors didn't indict him before the disputed 2018 congressional race.
Documents released Wednesday by the North Carolina State Board of Elections detail its investigation over the last two years into Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. Elections officials describe the 62-year-old convicted felon as a "person of interest" in their ongoing investigation into irregularities with the Nov. 6 vote in the state's 9th District.
Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. State leaders from both parties concede a do-over election might now be needed.
Investigators are probing whether Dowless and others working on Harris' behalf ran an illegal operation to collect large numbers of absentee ballots from voters.
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