Election cheating? Stefanik challenger admits being caught on video altering ballot petitions
Lonny Koons admits to Just the News he altered petitions, quits race for New York's 21st congressional district. "I know how this looks," he says.
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Before he dropped from the race, a GOP challenger to Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., was captured in video footage altering information on voter petitions to secure his access to the ballot.
Just the News obtained two videos shot by a Stefanik supporter that show Lonny Koons making changes to the forms while sitting in his car March 24 in a Walmart parking lot in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The videographer who shot them confirmed their authenticity to Just the News.
In an interview Friday, Koons confirmed the videos to Just the News, and said he was was "correcting errors and blanks on the petitions" and had only recently learned what he did might be considered fraudulent or cheating.
"I had people who had lined out their names in order to correct it so I was recreating the messed up pages," he told Just the News, insisting he did not alter any signatures, just voter information and names of individual signers.
Koons also said: "I know how this looks and because of that and the financial burden I have put myself in I am withdrawing from the race. The implications of those videos goes against everything I stand for and I have to accept that no matter [my] intentions, it will always be viewed as if I were cheating.
"I am sorry that I let so many people down; there is no excuse and nothing I can do to prove my intent. So with that, it's just better for me to disappear politically."
Republicans need at least 1,250 signatures to win approval to appear on a New York ballot for a congressional seat. New York law makes it a felony to knowingly affix another individual’s signature to a candidate petition and then submit the petition to public authorities.
Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House, called for Koons to be investigated and prosecuted, in a statement issued by her campaign.
Koons' action "explicitly disenfranchises voters in our district of their constitutional rights. This is a serious crime and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must stand up for election integrity and security in our country," her campaign said.
On Thursday, Koons dropped out of the Republican congressional primary in New York's 21st House district, ending an underdog bid to the House GOP Conference chairwoman.
In a November interview with the Times Union, Koons said his run was not born out of animosity toward Stefanik (who has represented the district since 2015), but rather a desire to have in Washington a representative for the upstate district who shares the middle class experience of most of its voters.
"Ms. Stefanik as a Republicans is a great Republican, but she doesn’t represent the middle of our district. We’re the ones scraping by and living paycheck to paycheck, and she wasn’t brought up that way," he told the outlet.
His bid was always a long shot and in a facebook post, Koons explained that he was terminating his campaign due to financial strain, as well as a second reason.
"It has come to my attention that I have been fraudulently filling in information on my petition sheets; I was unaware that by my filling in date and city cells as well as printing names of the signees after the fact that I was committing a fraudulent act," he wrote.
You can watch the videos here.
Koons had gained the support of the far-left Working Families Party, a socialist organization that proudly supports the movement to defund the police, as well as the Green New Deal, initially proposed by downstate New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D).
Koons' campaign site enumerates his own plans for "environmental improvements," affordable healthcare for working class Americans, and police reform.
A significant focal point of the upcoming 2022 midterm is election integrity, as candidates and state election boards attempt to regain a portion of the public’s trust following a presidential election plagued with ballot inconsistencies.