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Photo Of Dying WWII Veteran Casting Last Vote Inspires Thousands

Oct. 17: Frank Tanabe, center, casts his vote with help from his daughter Barbara Tanabe, left, and his wife Setsuko Tanabe.
Irene Tanabe
Oct. 17: Frank Tanabe, center, casts his vote with help from his daughter Barbara Tanabe, left, and his wife Setsuko Tanabe.

See if you agree with most of the nearly 600,000 people who have seen this photo and think it should inspire others to vote this year.

As The Associated Press writes, it shows 93-year-old World War II veteran Frank Tanabe casting what's almost surely to be his last vote — from a hospice bed in Hawaii. He has liver cancer.

This message was posted with the photo:

"My grandfather is proud of having voted in every single presidential election since he was awarded his citizenship in order to serve during WWII. Here he is, 93 years old and on his deathbed, with my aunt helping him fill out one last ballot."

The AP adds that:

"Barbara Tanabe read aloud the names of the candidates to her dad. He either nodded 'yes' to the names or shook his head 'no.' She filled in the boxes on his behalf, following his instructions even when he didn't pick the people she wanted.

" 'There were some that were OK, but there were others where I said, Dad, are you sure?' she said. But he knew what he was doing. He's kept up on the issues, reading newspapers regularly until only recently, she said."

Tanabe was sent to a California internment camp in the early years of World War II. While there, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. military. He was assigned to the Military Intelligence Service. Last year, that service was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. In a posting about the award, the House website says:

"The Military Intelligence Service — whose efforts are credited with shortening the war — intercepted radio messages, translated documents and encouraged opposing troops to surrender.

"In addition to their bravery, what made these veterans stand apart from others were their identities. The units were made up of Japanese-Americans interned in relocation camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Congressional Gold Medal honors their dedication of service to the United States."

By the way, The Atlantic Wire says that if Tanabe dies before Election Day, by law his vote should not count — but that even if that happens, "thanks to inefficiency and the sheer number of votes" cast, his ballot probably will get included in the count.

Note at 11 a.m. ET, Oct. 24. Laws Vary From State To State:

As Cleveland's Plain Dealer pointed out earlier this week, the laws on whether a deceased voter's absentee ballot would still count "differ from state to state." In Hawaii's case, the AP reported, a ballot would not count if the state's election officials got word before Election Day from health officials of a voter's death.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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