In 2018, Mark Harris ran to represent NC-09 in congress, while
initial tallies showed him winning, but the election panel refused
to certify these results after investigating reports of ballot fraud
involving McCrae Dowless, a Republican political operative
employed by the Harris campaign. In February 2019, the bipartisan
North Carolina Board of Elections dismissed the results of the
election and called for a new election to be held.
The Board of Elections subsequently opened an investigation which centered around the activities of Leslie McCrae Dowless, who had felony convictions for perjury and fraud. Dowless had been employed by numerous campaigns of Republican candidates to orchestrate "get out the vote" efforts. According to The Washington Post, Harris directed the hiring of Dowless for his campaign even though Harris received personal warnings in 2016 that Dowless had almost certainly used questionable tactics to deliver absentee votes in rural Bladen county for Todd Johnson, another losing candidate in the District's Republican congressional 2016 primary.
While the allegations of irregularities were being investigated, Harris sought to have himself certified as the winner of the election. In January 2019, Harris filed a petition to have a court certify him as the winner of the election; Harris's petition was rejected that same month.
The daughter of Dowless's ex-wife testified that under Dowless's direction, not only had absentee ballots been unlawfully collected from voters, but that in some cases Dowless's associates had filled in blank ballot votes to favor Republican candidates and had falsified witness signatures. Harris’s son testified he warned his father about the absentee ballot strategy used by Leslie McCrae Dowless and his father went ahead with the plan anyway.