Michael Overall: Not even dying gets in the way of voting
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2012
10/29/12 at 5:14 AM
A World War II veteran died last week after casting an absentee ballot in Hawaii, leaving officials to wonder if they should still count his vote in the presidential election.
Dead people have been known to vote before, but most of the time it seems kind of suspicious.
In this case, 93-year-old Frank Tanabe is taking voter eligibility to a whole new level and raising an important question.
Should we disenfranchise the deceased?
With the increasing popularity of early voting, the issue was bound to come up eventually.
The Oklahoma State Election Board sent out more than 50,000 absentee ballots for next week's election.
And nationwide, up to 40 percent of all votes will be cast before the polls actually open, according to recent studies.
Most states, however, have a rule against dying before Election Day.
Well, you can die. But then your vote isn't supposed to be counted.
Realistically, however, officials say they can't destroy Tanabe's ballot unless a copy of the death certificate arrives before Nov. 6.
Even then, they would have to sort through tens of thousands of ballots to find his. And it's going to be a busy day.
His vote will probably go through anyway. And it's hard to begrudge him.
After Pearl Harbor, the federal government forced Tanabe and more than 100,000 other Japanese-Americans into detention camps.
Who would blame him for being cynical about the United States and all our talk of freedom and justice and equality for all?
But that's not the way he felt.
"I wanted to do my part," Tanabe once said, according to press reports, "to prove that I was not an enemy alien, or that none of us were - that we were true Americans."
He was living behind barbed wire when he volunteered for the Army, which assigned Tanabe to a highly decorated part of the Military Intelligence Service, interrogating prisoners of war.
Having fought for freedom - and having seen others die for it - he wasn't about to let cancer stop him from exercising his rights.
After going into hospice care a few weeks ago, he insisted that his family get an absentee ballot. And he reportedly asked about it every day until it came in the mail Oct. 17.
His daughter raised an American flag outside the family home. Then she sat down next to Tanabe's bed and read each candidate's name out loud.
He shook his head for one of them and nodded "yes" for the other.
His daughter won't say which was which.
"It's not important," she told The Associated Press. "It's voting itself that makes a difference."
Nationwide, nearly 40 percent of eligible voters skipped the last presidential election, according to the U.S. Elections Project at George Mason University.
In Oklahoma, it was close to 45 percent.
If Tanabe's vote doesn't count after all, at least he'll have a pretty good excuse.
What about you?
Original Print Headline: Veteran's vote may not count after death