Colleague slaps voter-ID sponsor

Posted: August 24, 2012

STATE REP. Daryl Metcalfe, the sponsor of the state's controversial voter-ID law, last week offered to WHYY's "Fresh Air" program the story of a fellow House Republican as proof that in-person voter fraud occurs.

But now, state Rep. Bernie O'Neill of Warminster, Bucks County, says the comments he made on the House floor during a debate about the legislation last summer were not accurate.

O'Neill, speaking on June 23, 2011, said he had shown up to vote during an election and found that someone already had signed in as him and voted. That seemed odd, because O'Neill said that he was chairman of the board of supervisors in Warminster at the time, "where everybody knew me," and that he had voted at that polling place "forever."

Based on the timeline O'Neill laid out, it appeared he was talking about the 2002 Republican primary election for the newly created 29th Legislative District. O'Neill, who won that election, said Thursday that he really had been talking about an election in the early 1990s. And it doesn't sound like the clear-cut case of voter fraud that Metcalfe made it out to be.

"I ended up being able to vote," O'Neill said, explaining that election workers called Bucks County officials to clear up the confusion. "Somehow, they figured out it was human error."

O'Neill said that Metcalfe, who represents a district north of Pittsburgh, "shouldn't be hanging his hat on me" to defend voter ID.

In fact, O'Neill said, he voted with some apprehension for the voter-ID bill on the day he spoke from the floor. He wanted it to grow into more-comprehensive legislation that also looked at voter registration and absentee ballots. O'Neill said the legislation should start in 2013 to avoid the perception that it was designed to influence the 2012 presidential election. And he thought it should be less restrictive on what types of identification could be used.

O'Neill said that he had been reluctant to speak about the issue on the floor, but that GOP colleagues "kept hammering on me" after he told them about his trouble voting in one election. He plans to correct the record when the House reconvenes.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed to a request from the lawyers challenging the voter-ID law for an expedited hearing on the appeal of the Commonwealth Court ruling. The justices will hear arguments Sept. 13 in their courtroom in Philadelphia City Hall.

Contact Chris Brennan at or 215-854-5973. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN.

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