Annette John-Hall: Military vets to be among growing group disenfranchised by Voter ID bill.

Posted: September 19, 2012

I'm telling you, the more I learn about Pennsylvania's politically motivated farce of a voter ID law, the more comical it gets.

I mean, it's become a laugh- to-keep-from-crying proposition. With all the incompetence, subjectivity, and misinformation that continues to swirl only 49 days before the election, it seems more obvious that the only way to secure every citizen's right to vote is if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court does the right thing and overturns the law.

Let's see. So far, the bill stands to disenfranchise thousands of minority, elderly, disabled, and student voters.

But there's one group you'd never guess would be on the list.

Try veterans.

That's right. The men and women who have fought so valiantly for our liberty may not be able to cast ballots themselves if they don't have another form of photo ID besides their VA cards.

That's because their government-issued Veterans Affairs medical ID card lacks an expiration date.

The card is valid until said veteran, well, expires. But that wasn't good enough for State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), who authored Act 18, Pennsylvania's voter ID bill.

"From the beginning we modeled it after the Indiana law," Metcalfe told me Monday. "The ID cards that we were calling for were ID cards that met certain criteria and part of that criteria was that they have an expiration date. The VA card doesn't meet the criteria."

Metcalfe's argument would be easier to accept if it didn't have the sickening feel of someone eating his own.

See, Metcalfe happens to be a veteran himself. (Army, 1980-84).

Undaunted, he insists, "As a veteran, I think we've allowed for ample types of photo ID that can be utilized by any citizen that has the right to vote."

It's probably true that most veterans possess some sort of picture ID in the form of a driver's license, passport or a state-issued photo ID.

But what about the ones who don't? Of the 950,000 veterans in Pennsylvania, there are bound to be plenty whose only form of ID is a VA card.

Veterans like Stanley Garrett, 64, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Garrett says his driver's license was suspended in the 1980s. For the past two years, he's worked with Face to Face Inc., a Germantown services support group, to get a raised-seal copy of his birth certificate so he can secure a valid ID.

Not only that, on Monday, Garrett went to PennDot to to get a special voting-only ID card but was told those are only issued Tuesday through Saturday.

Talk about Keystone Kops bureaucracy running amok in the Keystone State.

Garrett doesn't understand why he can't use the VA card he's used for decades as identification at his polling place.

"You serve your country," Garrett says, frustrated, "but it looks like they're not serving you."

Besides some nagging knee and back problems, Garrett's in pretty good shape. But the same can't be said for the disabled vets for whom securing a photo ID would be a tremendous burden.

"There will be a small number who are paralyzed, in wheelchairs, who are blind," says Larry Holman of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "These are the people who may have stormed beaches in Normandy and Iwo Jima. Why should we inconvenience them in any way when they put their lives on the line to protect every citizens' right to vote?"

It's a good question, and one apparently pondered by State Rep. Scott Boyd (R., Lancaster), who in May introduced H.B. 2347, an amendment to the voter ID law that included VA cards as acceptable forms of ID.

But Metcalfe told me Monday the amendment died in committee. "We've [already] passed a good law," he said.

To which Holman countered, "I don't understand that logic. The VA card speaks volumes. It should say veterans should be able to go to the head of the voting line. It shouldn't say you can't get in line at all."

Nothing like throwing our military heroes under the bus.


Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-49486, or Ajohnhall@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Annettejh.

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