Philly Republican fired after alleged ballot-harvesting scheme
When it comes to promoting bogus conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud, MAGA Republicans often turn their attention to the swing state of Pennsylvania — falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump in the Keystone State. But journalist William Vaillancourt, reporting for Rolling Stone in an article published on May 12, observes that in Pennsylvania, it is Republicans who “seem to be the ones trying to game the system to their advantage.”
Vaillancourt points to the example of Billy Lanzilotti, a 23-year-old South Philly resident and former ward leader who chairs a PAC, the Republican Registrational Coalition. Although Philadelphia is overwhelmingly Democratic — the city’s last Republican mayor, Bernard Samuel, left office in January 1952 — it has a GOP minority, and Lanzilotti is part of that minority.
Vaillancourt notes that Lanzilotti, according to reporting in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “was signing voters up to receive mail-in ballots, but having the ballots sent not to the homes of the voters, but to the PAC’s P.O. box.”
“Republican leaders voted, on Saturday, (May 7), to remove him from his post as the leader of Philadelphia’s 39th Ward, and the Inquirer reported, on (May 11), that two state party staffers were fired because of their affiliation with Lanzilotti’s PAC,” Vaillancourt explains. “The terminations of 27-year-old Shamus O’Donnell and 24-year-old C.J. Parker were the result of last week’s report, four party sources familiar with the matter told the Inquirer.”
Vaillancourt adds, “The report detailed how dozens of mail-in ballots were being delivered to the P.O. box instead of to the voters.”
Lanzilotti told the Inquirer, “I didn’t do anything that, to my understanding, was against the law.” And he said he planned on delivering the ballots himself.
But according to Vaillancourt, “When the Inquirer spoke to some of the voters whose ballot applications listed Lanzilotti’s P.O. box, several of them said they didn’t even remember signing up to vote by mail. Only two of them who did said they were aware that the P.O. box is where their ballots would be sent…. The legality of Lanzilotti’s actions is unclear, but they have certainly raised concerns.”
Matt Haverstick, an elections lawyer, discussed Lanzilotti’s actions with the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying, “If the circumstance is, it’s mail delivered at a retirement home, and some kindly ward person gets them from the mailroom and hands them out, that’s one thing. Going to a P.O. box at the address for a PAC? I have to think about that one. It’s certainly one that would give me pause under the election code.”
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