Since 1943, Joyce Block says, she has voted in every election - even the two times she left hospital beds to get to the polls.
"That's how important it was for me to vote," the 89-year-old Doylestown Township woman says.
And that's why she called the ACLU a few weeks ago to join the civil liberties group's fight against Pennsylvania's new law requiring voters to produce photo identification. Block is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
She says she also raised a "ruckus" at the state Department of Transportation office in Dublin until she got her temporary photo ID, with a little help from State Sen. Chuck McIlhenny (R., Bucks).
"I raised my voice and told them it's a terrible law, it's discrimination, anti-American, and unconstitutional," she said. "Voting is a right for people."
Block, who sports an Obama for President button, said her father, a shoe salesman from Hungary, and her mother - "they were diehard socialists" - instilled her dedication to vote.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1922, she started dancing at age 7 and went on to perform in Manhattan clubs and as a chorus girl in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! In the summer, she danced at resorts in the Catskills and the Poconos, where she met her husband, Tom, a musician.
Block first voted at age 21. The next year, 1944, when Franklin D. Roosevelt won his fourth term, she voted for socialist Norman Thomas.
In 1958, a day after giving birth to the youngest of her six children, Block persuaded her doctor to discharge her early so she could vote.
And two years ago, she "caused a riot" in Doylestown Hospital "because I wanted to get out and vote for Patrick Murphy." A Democrat, Murphy lost his reelection bid for Congress that year. Don't blame Block; her children and grandchildren drove her to Pebble Hill Church and wheeled her into her polling place in a rented wheelchair.
"I looked terrible. I was in a nightgown with a jacket over it," she recalled. "Last week, the poll worker told me, 'You look a lot better today than the last time you voted.' "
But Block, whose husband died a few years ago, has not had a driver's license in decades, and her passport is expired. Under the new law, that meant she needed a photo ID card from PennDot to vote in November.
So, three weeks ago she went to the PennDot office with the required documents, plus her IRS refund check - and was rejected. Her original birth certificate and Social Security card had her maiden name, Joyce Altman; her property deed and utility bills were in her married name. "After 70 years of being Joyce Block, they told me to change my name on the deed to my maiden name," she said.
The PennDot employee could not read her marriage certificate - it was in Hebrew. "I felt the onus was on them to get someone to read it," she said.
Incensed that she might not be able to vote in November and concerned that others might not know about the law's requirements, Block called the ACLU.
Last week, she voted in the primary and then returned to PennDot with her documents. This time - whether because of her pluck, or a call from her friendly state senator - she was issued a free, temporary ID card, with the promise of a permanent card by mail in two weeks.
"But they told me that in three years, I'll need another ID, and it will cost me for a renewal," she said. "Voting is supposed to be free. It's a poll tax."
Block can stay in the lawsuit "because she still has injury," ACLU legal director Witold Walczak said. "She was told she'll be charged for renewal."
Voting is important, Block said. "I stop young people on the street and find out whether they're voting."
Joyce Block, plaintiff in ACLU suit challenging voter ID law, discusses why voting is so important to her: www.philly.com/blockEndText
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