Did my great grandmother commit voter fraud?

Did my great grandmother commit voter fraud?

PLEASE NOTE: Melody is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

This post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and make a purchase, I earn a percentage of the sale which allows me to keep providing you great content for free on this website.


I have been working fervishly in the voter registration indexes for California. What a surprise to find my Great Grandmother registered to vote in 1936. It’s a surprise because she wasn’t a US Citizen. She wasn’t even in the country legally.

My great grandfather contracted leprosy while they still lived in Hawaii. He avoided deportation to Molokai by getting smuggled out of Hawaii. Family members were in on the deal. I’m assuming money changed hands. When they got on board the ship, they were the Smith family and forever they remained.

The family was fairly secretive about their identity. Even after Theodoro died in 1914, Maria remained someone cloistered. She stayed within the Portuguese community. She never learned much English, something her youngest son chided her for.

How did it come to be that my great grandmother was a registered voter? I’ve really got no clue. She was not born in Hawaii, so she did not gain citizenship when Hawaii became a territory. Theodoro didn’t gain citizenship before he was diagnosed with leprosy, so it isn’t as if they had citizenship before they escaped Hawaii. She is listed in the 1930 census as an alien, so she hadn’t been granted citizenship at that point.

The rule was all individuals born in Hawaii automatically became citizens at the time it became a territory. Those who weren’t born in Hawaii had to wait a couple of years, then they could apply for citizenship under US law. It seems 1902 was the year that this process began since I found several familiar names in the indexes that year.

I would love to see the original voter registration form to see what it says. It has crossed my mind that Maria might not even be the person who applied. Perhaps a cousin filled out the form on her behalf. I have no clue what type of proof you supplied in the 1930s. It may not have been so difficult.

As I fill in details of my family tree, I keep opening up new mysteries. My great grandmother might have committed voter fraud. Or, a relative might have forged the documents on her behalf. Either way, it bugs me as I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer.

One thought on “Did my great grandmother commit voter fraud?

  1. Hi Melody,

    I had to make another comment after seeing the story about Molokai. I’ve recently read several books about it, fiction and non-fiction, and I’m so glad that your Great Grnadfather was able to escape it, with the help of family. According to the books I’ve read, by then, more and more people were choosing to flee rather than just “accept their fate” and allow themselves to be moved to Molokai. If these were my ancestor’s, I’d feel very proud that my family bucked convention and smuggled him out of Hawaii. It’s a wonderful story!

    I think we can let Great-Grandmother’s voter fraud go…No need to contact the authorities! I think it shows just how badly she wanted to vote in her new country. That’s an admirable thing, even if she did go about it the wrong way. 😀

    Now, after reading these stories, we all know where you got your unconventional and accepting personality! As you know, I love history, and I’m going to have to keep an eye on your blog for other interesting stories!

    All the best,
    Valli
    P.S. I promise I won’t always make such long comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *