Man gets special permission to bring late dad's photo to polls

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Voting in 2020 means more for some families who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic than just submitting a ballot.

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rise across the country, the pain that's left behind of losing a loved one is still raw for some families.

"I don't have a husband," Patty Essissima explained. "There's an empty space. An empty space in my house. An empty space in my heart."

Essissima's husband, Nathaniel, died in August from COVID-19.

"He was born in Cameroon," Nathaniel's stepson, Benjamin Hernandez, said. "He came here and started a business."

Nathanial's background, a CEO who came to the United States as an immigrant, is what made him understand the importance of voting, his family said. He may have passed before this year's general election, but it doesn't mean his presence wasn't in the voting booth.

"This year, I know exactly who I'm going to vote for," Hernandez explained. "That part is clear. Instead of taking in my sample ballot, I'm going to take in a picture of my dad because it's important for me in a way for him to be there."

Hernandez said in order to take a photo into the booth, he needed permission from the clerk's office. He got it and voted with the photo on Saturday.

"It's just a small symbol, but for me, that's really important to do this year, and a way to honor his legacy, and to remind myself we're not just voting for people on the ballot, we're voting for every American that has lost their life this year," Hernandez said.

Early voting in Texas continues until Friday, Oct. 30. More than a million people have already turned out to the polls to cast their ballot in Harris County.

"Get out there and vote," Hernandez said. "Do it for the people we've lost. It's important that we do it this year."

Follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.