Two state GOP staffers were fired Tuesday after the disclosure of a possible ballot harvesting operation in southern Philadelphia.

The jobs of Shamus O’Donnell, 27, and C.J. Parker, 24, were terminated after dozens of Republican ballots for the May 17 primary addressed to voters were sent to a P.O. Box registered to a political action committee, called the Republican Registration Coalition, instead, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the story about the delivery last week. O’Donnell, who was a field organizer for the state GOP, and Parker, a personal aide to state party Chairman Lawrence Tabas, were affiliated with the political action committee, sources told the news outlet.


The PAC's chairman and a former ward leader, Billy Lanzilotti, said he was writing down his P.O. Box instead of the voter addresses as a "service to the voters" and would hand-deliver the ballots when they arrived. Lanzilotti was voted out of his position as ward leader Saturday.

Dropping off someone else's ballot is prohibited in Pennsylvania unless a disability prevents a voter from being able to drop it off on their own, though the report stresses none of the ballots have been found to be fraudulent.

"This is nothing more than ballot harvesting and was done, in nearly all cases, without the knowledge of the voters whose names are on the ballots," state GOP Rep. Seth Grove, chairman of the House State Government Committee, said in a statement. The lawmaker added later, “If Gov. Tom Wolf had not vetoed the Voting Rights Protection Act without reading it, this alleged ballot harvesting scheme would not have happened."

An attorney for O'Donnell, Matt Wolfe, said his client was not involved in the scheme and only served as the PAC's treasurer. “Shamus had no knowledge of the mail ballot applications and what Billy Lanzilotti was doing,” Wolfe said. The report also noted that O'Donnell and Parker declined to comment Tuesday. Wolfe, himself a GOP ward leader in western Philadelphia, said the Republican City Committee had not considered whether to boot O'Donnell and Parker as ward leaders when Lanzilotti was cast out by his peers.

Many of the affected voters said they did not remember applying to vote by mail and did not know why the ballots went to the committee instead of them. None of the people who spoke to the local paper said Lanzilotti tried to change or influence their votes, according to the report, which also noted that the signatures on the ballots appear to be legitimate and that Lanzilotti's address on each ballot appears to have been written in different handwriting.


Philadelphia election officials said the affected ballots would be placed in a different area from the other ballots so as to be considered separately.