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The same day Bitzer published his data, the state Democratic Party submitted four affidavits to the elections board from Bladen County voters who said their absentee ballots had been collected at their homes by people they thought were officials.

Dowless was hired by a consultant to work on behalf of Republican Mark Harris, who appeared to defeat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the election. One woman told WSOC-TV that Dowless "paid her $75 to $100 a week to go around and pick up finished absentee ballots". North Carolina law allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.

"Join me in this fight for the people whose voices were taken from them", he said.

North Carolina's board of elections is also investigating concerns about ballot collection, as well as unusually high interest in absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties.

The North Carolina Board of Elections is slated to hold an open hearing on or before December 21 to discuss the findings of its investigation.

Two years ago, North Carolina Republican Pat McCrory refused for a month to concede he'd lost his gubernatorial re-election race, claiming to be a victim of the kind of massive fraud by voters that his party had warned about for years.

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Dowless earned more than $23,000 working on six campaigns dating back to 2010, and in most of those races, Dowless' candidates received a disproportionately higher percentage of absentee votes in Bladen County.

Entertaining the idea of a new election represents a significant change from last Thursday, when state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes issued a statement saying: "Democrats are throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the wall to try and steal an election".

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McCready had not commented until Thursday even as other state Democrats, as well as top Dems in the House of Representatives, called for a probe of the allegations and a new election that could again pit McCready against Harris and Libertarian Jeff Scott. The board could ultimately order another election.

"If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race then we fully would support a new election", he said in a statement, adding that Harris should be certified the victor if the ballots in question would not have changed the outcome. The board also got a rash of calls from residents who said that canvassers told them their voter registration had been canceled, Stone said, and he alerted the North Carolina State Board of Elections of the irregularities this summer.

"What we cannot have going forward from this point is an investigative and enforcement effort or process that has a partisan taint that could dramatically worsen the situation", said Sen. Dan Bishop, a Charlotte Republican. "But there's no way Mr. Harris knew", said Woodhouse. "This is against everything that we actively stand for", he said.