The Vote Collectors, Second Edition

The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers behind the Nation's Greatest Electoral Fraud

Second Edition

By Michael Graff, Nick Ochsner

With a new preface by the authors

298 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7964-8
    Published: March 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7965-5
    Published: February 2024

Ferris and Ferris Books

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In November 2018, Baptist preacher Mark Harris beat the odds, narrowly fending off a blue wave in the sprawling Ninth District of North Carolina. But word soon got around that something fishy was going on in rural Bladen County. At the center of the mess was a local political operative named McCrae Dowless. Dowless had learned the ins and outs of the absentee ballot system from Democrats before switching over to the Republican Party. Bladen County’s vote-collecting cottage industry made national headlines, led to multiple election fraud indictments, toppled North Carolina GOP leadership, and left hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without congressional representation for nearly a year.

In The Vote Collectors, Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner tell the story of the political shenanigans in Bladen County, exposing the shocking vulnerability of local elections and explaining why our present systems are powerless to monitor and prevent fraud. In their hands, this tale of rural corruption becomes a fascinating narrative of the long clash of racism and electioneering—and a larger story about the challenges to democracy in the rural South.

In their preface to this second edition, Graff and Ochsner bring the story up to date, as accusations of voter fraud continue to pervade our national discourse. The Vote Collectors shows the reality of election stealing in one southern county, where democracy was undermined the old-fashioned way: one absentee ballot at a time.

About the Authors

Michael Graff is the Southern bureau chief for Axios Charlotte.
For more information about Michael Graff, visit the Author Page.

Nick Ochsner is executive producer and chief investigative reporter at WBTV in Charlotte, NC.
For more information about Nick Ochsner, visit the Author Page.


“On the heels of one of the most volatile presidential elections in recent memory, The Vote Collectors is a pointed look at the 2018 congressional election in North Carolina’s Bladen County...[The book] uses this story to explore the weakness of current voting systems, specifically in the South, given the historical scars of racism in elections and voting rights...Recommended for readers interested in politics and American history, as well as the intersection of voting rights.”—Affinity Magazine

“In The Vote Collectors, that scandal—which made national headlines for months—is secondary to a more comprehensive examination of its historical, economic, and political antecedents in Bladen County and oft-forgotten eastern North Carolina...The authors unfurl the story in three parts: a deep probe into the history of post-Civil War eastern North Carolina sandwiched by more recent developments in Bladen County, leading up to and after the 2018 election.”—Charlotte Magazine

“A fascinating narrative of the long clash of racism and electioneering—and a larger story about the challenges to democracy in the rural South.”—WRAL

"Rollicking, deeply reported, and a delight to read.”

—David Graham, The Atlantic