I can’t tell you the heartbreak I felt yesterday when I got back to my office and found I’d missed a call from State Rep. Bernie O’Neill.
I’d been calling to ask him about the claim that his vote was brazenly stolen at his home polling place, demonstrating the need for Pennsylvania’s tough new voter ID law.
But at last, the mystery of the O’Neill vote heist has been solved.
Turns out there was no stolen vote, just human error, and apparently nothing that would have been remedied by the voter ID law.
I started calling O’Neill after his name came up in my interview on Fresh Air with State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the prime sponsor of the voter ID legislation.
I asked Metcalfe if he thought there really were people walking into polling places and impersonating registered voters, and he said yes, citing the case of O’Neill, a Republican state representative from Bucks County near Philadelphia.
Metcalfe was correct in stating that O’Neill had claimed during the floor debate earlier this year that he’d once walked into his home polling place and found somebody had already signed in and voted for him.
“I can tell you,” O’Neill said in the debate, “if they were required to ask for my picture ID when they voted for me, I am sure they would not have been able to vote and steal my identity from me.”
I decided to follow up and ask O’Neill what election this had occurred in, and what he’d done about it. It just seemed awfully strange that somebody would walk into an elected official’s home polling place and pretend to be the man himself.
When O’Neill didn’t return my calls, I wrote about it in this blog post, and other media picked up the story and began calling him, too.
The story changes
Yesterday O’Neill called reporters back, ready to explain.
I wasn’t in when he left a message and he didn’t return subsequent calls. But the Daily News’ Chris Brennan writes that O’Neill told him the polling place inicident occurred in the early 90’s, and that he did manage to vote that day after election workers called county officials to clear things up.
“Somehow, they figured out it was human error,” O’Neill said.
Brennan reports that O’Neill said twice in their interview that Metcalfe “shouldn’t be hanging his hat on me” to defend the Voter ID law.
O’Neill also said he’d voted with some apprehension on the voter ID bill and that he was reluctant to speak on it in the House debate, but that he’d been pressured by Republican colleagues to tell his polling place story.
Read Brennan’s story here.
What does it mean? It means that evidence for the kind of in-person voter fraud that would be remedied by the voter ID law remains incredibly, incredibly thin.