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9th District investigation witness arrested

January 10th, 2019

A man who swore he gave his incomplete ballot to the central figure in an ongoing investigation of 9th Congressional District election results was arrested earlier this month on marijuana charges.

Chris Eason, who signed an affidavit saying McCrae Dowless picked up his signed but otherwise blank ballot ahead of the November elections, was arrested by the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office as part of a 28-arrest sweep the department announced this week.

Eason’s bond was set at $85,000. He faces a number of intent to distribute marijuana charges, as well as a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Eason’s past record shows misdemeanor domestic violence charges, and the Associated Press reported that his record also includes felony convictions for armed robbery and car theft. WSOC in Charlotte was the first to report his latest arrest.

Eason’s affidavit was signed last month, and Democrat Dan McCready’s campaign included it in a filing before the State Board of Elections, which is examining absentee results in Bladen and Robeson counties. The board held off on certifying the 9th Congressional District race for apparent winner Mark Harris because of absentee results, and investigators are looking into multiple accusations that Dowless sent people door-to-door to collect ballots, which is a felony due to tampering concerns.

Dowless has worked for a number of politicians over the years in addition to Harris, including Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker. Dowless and another Bladen County man indicated in documents tied to a civil lawsuit that Dowless essentially took cash under the table to help McVicker’s 2014 campaign. Dowless worked for McVicker’s successful re-election campaign in 2018.

McVicker has rebuffed repeated interview requests.

Eason’s arrest is emblematic of the tangled web of alliances and recriminations in the 9th District saga. He is the brother of Ginger Eason, according to WSOC, and Ginger Eason told WRAL News and other media outlets that Dowless hired her to collect absentee ballots.

Dowless himself has declined interview requests, but said through his attorney that he did nothing illegal.

Another affidavit in the case from Ben Snyder, who chairs the Bladen County Democratic Party, alleges that Bladen County Board of Elections Chairman Bobby Ludlum told him that Dowless told now-retired Elections Director Cynthia Shaw that he was throwing ballots in the trash.

Ludlum told WRAL News that’s “absolutely a lie.”

Ludlum is Dowless’ cousin.

“You can pick your friends,” Ludlum said last month, “but you can’t pick your kin, OK?”

Shaw has not responded to interview requests. A brief visit to her home in Bladen County ended when a man who would not identify himself angrily told a WRAL News reporter to leave. He then followed a WRAL News vehicle for some time before making a u-turn and driving away.

The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office included Eason’s arrest in a video posted to its Facebook page this week. It dubbed the action “Operation Take Back the Boro” and said a number of other agencies assisted, including the State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Office. A sheriff’s office spokesman said the arrests were made Jan. 4.

The State Board of Elections once planned to hold a public hearing on Friday, Jan. 11, on its inquiry into 9th District results, but that was canceled when a panel of three judges dissolved the board, having found it unconstitutional months before as part of a long-running court fight between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly’s Republican majority.

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