Passing Judgment: From The Manzanar Free Press, August 26, 1942

The following is being reprinted from the August 26, 1942 edition of the Manzanar Free Press (camp newspaper).

The sending of over two thousand absentee ballots to Japanese evacuee citizens in assembly and relocation centers has brought divergent views, mostly critical, in the metropolitan newspapers of Los Angeles. The majority of the people interviewed by one reactionary Hearst newspaper have said that the Japanese should not be given the privilege of voting since the Japanese are wards of the federal government.

In these critical times, when the nation is exerting tremendous effort to bring decency and justice for all people, regardless of race, color, or creed, the arguments presented by the people interviewed seemed to show that they are playing into the hands of Nazi propagandists.

This country must avoid creating the concentration camp atmosphere for evacuee Japanese now living in assembly and relocation centers.

By denying the citizens of the various centers the right to vote, the American people would certainly be duplicating the Nazi system. They would be depriving the Americans of Japanese ancestry the sacred heritage all Americans are proud of and worth fighting for.

In spite of all the criticisms against letting the evacuee Japanese vote, the calm and sane voice of Superior Court Judge William J. Palmer stands out above the crowd of reactionary elements.

Said Judge Palmer:

“Notwithstanding any personal opinions or sentiments one might have, this is purely a legal problem. All persons who are citizens and are qualified voters have the right to vote, and there is nothing that anybody can do about it. That is our democratic system and this is the system we fight to preserve. If these people are registered, are citizens, and have requested ballots, they are entitled to cast them, and that is the end of the matter.”

We, Americans of Japanese ancestry in evacuation centers, are proud of fellow Americans who have the courage of their convictions to say what they think is right in face of mounting public opposition.

A nation insisting on a democratic program to bring justice to all peoples cannot itself practice undemocratic principles—such as denying evacuee citizens the right to vote.

It is well for all Americans to remember that we can defeat our own aim and intentions by resorting to undemocratic and un-American practices.


Please be sure to read the accompanying article, “Voting is a Right in a Democracy.”

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