North Carolina Republican political operative charged in election fraud scheme

(Reuters) – The North Carolina Republican political operative at the center of an absentee ballot fraud scheme that prompted the state to order a re-run of a congressional election was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on Wednesday, local media reported.

The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was charged by the Wake County District Attorney’s office, WRAL.com and WSOC-9 reported, citing a statement from that office. Officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state’s elections board last week described the election as an “absolute mess,” pronounced its results tainted by the scheme and ordered a new election for the seat representing the state’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican candidate who initially appeared to have won that race, Mark Harris, said he would not make a second run for the seat. Dan McCready, the Democrat who ran against Harris, does plan to run again.

Dowless has previously denied wrongdoing. A person who answered the phone at the office of his attorney, Cynthia Singletary, said Singletary was not available to comment on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)