Mr. Dowless was arrested in February 2019 on charges of ballot tampering and obstruction of justice related to the 2016 and 2018 primary races; four others faced charges. That July he was indicted on similar charges related to the 2018 general election, along with six others.
The case faced multiple delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic and Mr. Dowless’s health. That did not prevent an unrelated fraud case from going forward. In June 2021, he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud for failing to report his income from the Harris campaign while receiving Social Security disability benefits.
Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. was born on Jan. 3, 1956, near Lumberton, N.C., where Leslie Sr. worked on a 200-acre peanut farm. His mother, Monnie (Pait) Dowless, was a homemaker. He was the youngest of 11 children in the household, though the only child his parents had together.
The family’s first home, tucked into the woods near the farm, had no indoor plumbing, and Mr. Dowless later recalled bathing in a 55-gallon oil drum. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to a modern home in nearby Bladenboro, where he ran from bathroom to bathroom, turning the taps on and off in amazement, he told Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner for their book “The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scammers, Politicians and Preachers Behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud” (2021).
Along with his daughter, Mr. Dowless is survived by his brother, Harry; his sisters Myrtice Johnson and Filena Carson; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Mr. Dowless Sr. ran a fertilizer store with his brother, and his son helped out after school and on weekends. And Leslie Jr. continued to work on farms, mostly growing peanuts, a prime crop in that corner of the state.
By the late 1980s he was managing a used-car lot with a girlfriend, whom he hoped to marry once he had enough money saved. When one employee died unexpectedly, they took out life insurance on him, with the check illegally backdated.