This week video emerged of Mitt Romney at a May fundraising event alleging that 47 percent of the electorate would vote for Barack Obama because they are “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims.”
Romney has subsequently backtracked from his remarks, saying last night “my campaign is about the 100 percent of America.” But at least some high-profile Republicans are continuing to defend Romney’s factually inaccurate statement—and linking his words to GOP efforts to restrict the right to vote. Listen to what Pennsylvania Representative Daryl Metcalfe, chief sponsor of the state’s voter ID law, said in a radio interview yesterday:
HOST: Are you absolutely convinced…that the methods to implement this law are effective and will in fact make sure no legitimate voter will be disenfranchised?
METCALFE: 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% of the people that 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 a remarkable statement. Metcalfe seems to honestly believe that up to 12 percent of registered voters without ID—which includes students, the elderly, minorities, the poor, the disabled and veterans—are simply too “lazy” to vote. He seems unaware that longtime voters in Pennsylvania are waiting four hours in line just to obtain a voter ID that was never required in any previous election and remains unnecessary today—since the state has admitted that there is no voter fraud in Pennsylvania that a voter ID law would stop. He doesn’t seem to realize that nine counties in Pennsylvania don’t even have a PennDOT office, thirteen counties have an office that is open only one day a week and Philadelphia has five offices for over 1 million registered voters, where the lines are routinely two to three hours long. And he doesn’t seem to understand that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson estimated that anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania don’t have voter ID but the state has issued only 9,000 voter IDs since the law went into effect.
“The Commonwealth’s interest in the implementation of this law, at least as concerns the November election, is somewhere from slight to symbolic,” wrote Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery this week. As the court noted, it is the responsibility of the state to make sure every voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot, which is why new hearings are scheduled for later this month to decide whether the state is complying with its own law.
So who is Daryl Metcalfe? Like many Republicans, he’s been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council for over a decade. The conservative group drafted mock voter ID legislation that is remarkably similar to the bill that Melcalfe introduced in the legislature. He says, “I was a Tea Partier before it was cool,” and is best known for introducing “birther” legislation requiring a presidential candidate to produce a birth certificate before running for office. He’s been linked to right-wing anti-immigrant hate groups and has been dubbed the legislature’s “most prominent critic of gays.”
Yet his radical views seem hardly outside the mainstream of the current Republican Party. He is chairman of the State Government Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the driving force behind the state’s voter ID bill, which gives you a pretty good sense of just how partisan this law really is. Instead of trying to expand its tent, the GOP of today is committed to preventing those “lazy,” “dependent on government” voters from going to the polls.
For more on the Pennsylvania ID law, check out Voting Rights Watch’s latest coverage.