The man at the center of Bladen County’s 2018 election fraud scandal is going to jail for another crime: fraudulently collecting disability payments while raking in a six-figure salary from campaign jobs. 

McCrae Dowless, a political operative hired by Republican Congressional candidate Mark Harris, faces separate charges in an absentee ballot scheme that resulted in the election results being thrown out.

Dowless is accused of coordinating the collection and filling out of empty ballots in the race. When the votes were counted in the 9th Congressional District race, Harris appeared to have narrowly bested Democrat Dan McCready. But an investigation by the State Board of Elections revealed absentee ballot tampering. 

A new election was ordered, and Republican Dan Bishop won the seat. 

Dowless was charged with possession of absentee ballots, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. That case is ongoing.

On Thursday, Dowless was sentenced to six months in jail for collecting disability payments while failing to report $135,000 from campaign jobs, including the campaign for Harris. 

After Dowless pled guilty to the federal disability charges earlier this summer, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told WFAE she anticipates his state trial in the elections fraud case to begin by the end of the year. 

The political rivalry at the heart of the 9th Congressional District scam was the subject of a Serial Productions and New York Times podcast by This American Life alum Zoey Chace, “The Improvement Association.” 

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