HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN/KHON) - A World War II veteran, who drew national attention for a photo of him voting while dying of cancer, has died. But now his vote may not count.
In his final days, it was difficult for 93-year-old Frank Tanabe to speak or even open his eyes. Yet he was determined to exercise his right to vote, filling out the absentee ballot with the help of his daughter, former KHON2 news anchor Barbara Tanabe. She says, "He has never missed an election in his entire life and he wasn't going to let this one go either."
That would be his final vote. Tanabe passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family. But his patriotism continues to serve as an inspiration. Glen Arakiki with M.I.S. Veterans Club of Hawaii says, "Well I thought, like a good soldier, you know, do his duty and he voted until the last minute."
Arakaki served in the military intelligence service just like Tanabe. Both attended last year's congressional gold medal ceremony at our nation's capital. Arakaki doesn't understand why Tanabe's vote is technically invalid. He says, "Even though the law says shouldn't count, in this particular case, I think, it should count."
According to state law, if a person votes by mail and dies before the polls close on November 6th, that vote, will not count. That applies to everyone, including those deployed in the military. Rep. Karl Rhoads with the Hawaii State Legislature says, "My feeling is it should be just once you voted, that's it, unless there's some fraud involved."
Rhoads, who's also vice chair of the judiciary committee, believes the law should be changed, especially since executing the law would be very tough. He says, "Once you've already voted, it's very difficult to fish one ballot back out."
The office of elections confirms, when someone passes away, the city clerk needs to receive a notification of death, then, find and pull that person's ballot, which officials say, is like finding a needle in a haystack. Still, Tanabe's final act as an American citizen, could leave behind a valuable legacy. Tanabe says, "If this photo encourages more people to vote that would be the ultimate honor for my father."