Frank Tanabe, a former resident of Idaho's Minidoka Relocation Center and World War II veteran who made sure he voted in the 2012 U.S. elections from his sick bed last week, died of liver cancer Wednesday at his home in Honolulu, the Associated Press reports.
Tanabe's grandson, ick Kawaguchi, lives in Boise.
A photograph of the 93-year-old filling out his ballot with help from his daughter went viral after his grandson shared it on the social media site Reddit. The grandson included a caption that read in part: “My grandfather is proud of having voted in every single presidential election since he was awarded his citizenship in order to serve during WWII.”
Barbara Tanabe told the AP that her father, who was in hospice care at her home, had been impatiently waiting for his absentee ballot to arrive in the mail, and he asked to fill it out immediately when it did on Oct. 17. She read the names of the candidates aloud, he nodded "yes" to his choices and she filled in the boxes for him.
Frank Tanabe was one of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans detained in internment camps in the U.S. after the start of the war with Japan, the Los Angeles Times reported. He volunteered for the Army from the Lake Tula camp in California and served in the Army’s Military Intelligence Service, which was collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last year.
"I think he feels like joining the Army, going to the camp, fighting in the war, and fighting discrimination — these were all things he did so that we have this precious right to vote," Barbara Tanabe told the AP last week. "For so many people to express their heartfelt tribute to my father was really, really heartwarming for us."
According to the LA Times, Hawaii state law requires that officials invalidate the ballots of voters who die before election day. However, chances are Tanabe’s vote will still be counted as it is unlikely that his local health department will notify officials of his death by Nov. 6, or that officials will take the time to locate his ballot among tens of thousands of other mailed-in ballots.
A similar situation allowed the absentee vote cast by Barack Obama’s grandmother to stand in 2008, even though she died two days before election day, the AP reported. Hawaii counted her vote anyway because the Health Department didn't receive her certificate of death before the election.