Series note: This is the first in a three part series profiling members of the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame.
Martha Bissey, 95, has voted in every November election since she was first eligible at 21. This year, though, she was worried the state’s new voter identification law would break her voting streak.
However, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled yesterday that the law requiring voters to present a photo ID with an expiration date should not go into effect in this year’s election. In his ruling, the judge said he was concerned that the state couldn't be sure that every voter would be able to easily get an ID by Election Day.
That was after Bissey, a resident of Foxdale Village retirement community, made the trek to the local driver’s license center for a voter ID one Tuesday afternoon with the help of a friend, Charlotte de Lissovoy.
de Lissovoy, 78, said both Bissey and another resident who went with them to get an ID had walkers. The lines were long, and the center had no chairs for them to sit while they went through the almost two hour process, de Lissovoy said.
Bissey said when she got there, she had to show her Social Security card, because her ID card expired in 2011.
“The whole thing is a pretty tedious procedure for people in their old age,” Bissey said. “I’m just thankful that I’ll be able to keep my record.”
Julia Hix, another resident of Foxdale Village, said volunteers are taking people who live independently at Foxdale Village to get their voter IDs. Foxdale can provide a voter ID for its residents who need assisted living, Hix said.
She said Bissey wrote her a letter, because Bissey was "delighted" that Hix spoke at the State College Borough Council's recent forum on the voter ID law.
As a young girl, Bissey went with her parents when they went to vote on Election Day, she said. Their precinct where she grew up in York County was a garage the other 364 days of the year, Bissey said.
Bissey is one of 136 Centre County voters in the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame, which honors Pennsylvanians who have voted in every November election for at least 50 consecutive years, according to its website. She was inducted in November 2002, according to the website.
Her first polling place in Centre County was a fire hall, she said. Back then, there were only three voting precincts for State College, she said. Now, she said, Foxdale Village has its very own polling place.
Most of the time, she’s been a Republican — except when conservative Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, she said.
Bissey said she’s been following the news “very closely” in this year’s presidential campaign season. She watches The Rachel Maddow Show and watched both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions with “a great deal of interest,” she said.
de Lissovoy said she thinks Bissey is motivated by more than just a desire to preserve her voting record.
“For all of us, most people that I know who are educated and interested in our country, want to vote,” de Lissovoy said. “She certainly didn’t want to mar [her perfect voting record], but I don’t think it was as much the record as she just wanted to vote.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.