HARRISBURG House Democratic Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, is strongly condemning statements made this week by the prime sponsor of Pennsylvania's restrictive voter ID law, Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, in which Metcalfe characterized voters who may not be able to obtain a photo ID for the November election as "lazy."
"Personally disparaging tens of thousands of hardworking, responsible and patriotic Pennsylvanians simply because they don't have a photo ID which is not required for a U.S. citizen and cannot jump through the numerous hoops that have been created for them to get one is, in a word, outrageous," Hanna said. "This law is going to disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvania voters a large percentage of them elderly, students, veterans and minorities.
"Frankly, Rep. Metcalfe's statement stems from the same mindset that leads to policies such as the voter ID law, which is meant to stigmatize and marginalize entire segments of the population."
Earlier this week, on a KDKA radio program, Metcalfe said: "I don't believe any legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on the according responsibility that goes with that right to secure their photo ID will be disenfranchised. As Mitt Romney said, 47 percent of the people are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors' hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can't fix that."
"This is the language of division and disparagement that is always the last resort of people whose ideas are bankrupt," Hanna said.
"In the first place, Mitt Romney's suggestion that nearly half of all Americans don't pay taxes is ridiculous. Most of these families and individuals DO pay sales taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes and many other kinds of federal, state and local taxes.
"Those who don't pay income taxes aren't lazy, they just don't earn enough at the jobs they do work to owe income tax," he said. "According to the Tax Policy Center, these households DO pay payroll taxes as well as some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes. The fact that Representative Metcalfe tied his misguided view of Pennsylvanians who don't have a photo ID to Mitt Romney's misguided view about which Americans pay taxes in this country is very telling."
Hanna said in their push to get the voter ID law passed, Metcalfe and other Republicans filled the debate both in the General Assembly and in public media with erroneous claims about how serious the problem of voter fraud was in Pennsylvania.
"We now know by the state's own admission that rampant voter fraud, and particularly the kind of voter impersonation fraud the voter ID law is aimed at, is fiction," he said.
"Rep. Metcalfe's characterization of nearly half his fellow citizens is fiction, as well. The only widespread voter fraud scheme that threatens the integrity of Pennsylvania's election this November and in the future is the one Rep. Metcalfe signed his name to as the prime sponsor."
Hanna said the fact is thousands of Pennsylvania's registered voters many of them elderly, veterans, minorities and students will not be able to vote this November not because they are unwilling to meet the new law's requirements, but because they can't.
Just this week, the York Daily Record publicized the case of a U.S. Navy sailor who is currently deployed at sea on a submarine and may not be able to vote in the November election because of the restrictive new requirements under the voter ID law for obtaining an absentee ballot.
A 72-year-old Pennsylvania veteran who was born in New York and hasn't had a driver's license since 1981 has been unable to get a photo ID because he can't obtain his birth certificate from New York and the Pennsylvania Health Department can't verify his birth records. This is a problem faced by a number of elderly registered voters who were born in other states particularly minorities from the South for whom birth records often don't exist. One Philadelphia resident has already spent more than $100 trying to obtain her birth certificate from South Carolina.
Many Pennsylvania-born veterans won't be able to vote because their only photo ID card the Veterans Affairs medical ID card doesn't have an expiration date and so doesn't meet the law's requirements.
Thousands of college students who don't have Pennsylvania driver's licenses will be disenfranchised because their university student IDs don't meet the law's requirements. And there are thousands of indigent and disabled elderly and other Pennsylvanians who cannot get transportation to and from a PennDOT driver's license center before the election, or the county courthouse to verify their identity after the election.
"How many of our state's military men and women, veterans, elderly, disabled, students and others are in similar situations?" Hanna asked. "Many of these people have gone to great effort to make sure they get out and vote in every election for decades even though they are of limited means and have limited mobility.
"Does Rep. Metcalfe truly believe that all of these people are simply lazy, living off the public dole and the hard work of their neighbors?
"I realize that Representative Metcalfe strongly disagrees with many Pennsylvanians who see our state, our nation and the world differently than he does, and there is room for that in our democracy," Hanna said.
"But deliberately mischaracterizing and personally disparaging hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents as lazy and somehow less 'legitimate' than others falls below what all of us have a right to expect from a public official who has sworn to uphold the constitution of this Commonwealth and serve ALL of its citizens.
"I truly hope that as we continue to debate voter ID and other issues, that other members of the General Assembly on both sides of the political aisle will avoid the broad-brush debasement and disparagement of entire segments of our state's population we see here in an attempt to further their political and policy goals. That is certainly NOT what we were sent here to do."