In late October, two weeks before the election, amid the glut of attack ads, a TV commercial appeared in Minnesota that grabbed everyone’s attention. It opens on former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, who is a familiar and beloved figure in the state, looking into the camera. “This voter-restriction amendment is way too costly,” he tells viewers. An image of $100 bills flashes to his right. Carlson’s jowls quiver as he solemnly shakes his head. An American flag hangs behind his shoulder. Fade and cut to Mark Dayton, the state’s current governor, a Democrat, on the right half of the screen. “And it would keep thousands of seniors from voting,” Dayton continues, his Minnesota accent especially thick. As he speaks, a black-and-white photo of a forlorn elderly woman appears. In a year when the two parties seemed to agree on little except their mutual distaste for each other, here was a split-screen commercial with a Democrat and a Republican, the only bipartisan TV spot Minnesotans would see. The two trade talking points, Carlson focusing on the financial burden, Dayton highlighting the various groups who would be disenfranchised, until the split screen vanishes, revealing the two governors side by side in front of a painting of the Minnesota Capitol. “If you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent please vote no—this is not good for Minnesota,” Carlson closes.
The target of the ad was a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would require Minnesotans to present a government-issued photo ID before they could vote. When the Republican-controlled state legislature first considered the amendment in 2011, its passage was a near certainty—more than 80 percent supported it, as large a consensus as one can find in politics. Local voting-rights groups had concluded that fighting the amendment was a lost cause. The state’s liberal organizations were putting their efforts into challenging an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment that Republicans had also put on the ballot.
National voting-rights groups, though, were worried about the repercussions of photo ID becoming law in Minnesota. It’s one thing for voters in a deep red state to overwhelmingly approve photo ID, as Mississippi did in 2011. But Minnesota is supposed to be different. It has the highest voter turnout in the country. It adopted same-day registration in 1974, the second state do so. “Minnesota has a history of exceedingly careful and exceedingly competent election administration,” says Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an authority on election law. “It’s a state I like to point to as one of the leaders in the country.” If photo ID passed in Minnesota, advocates worried, Republicans could pursue voter-ID laws anywhere.
“We were winning that battle,” says Mary Kiffmeyer, the Republican state representative who introduced the amendment, “except that Arne Carlson and Dayton got in. When I saw that particular ad, I thought, ‘It’s just going to be too much.’” The two governors reminded Minnesotans of their better nature, their trusting nature, of their Midwestern faith that voters are not strangers but neighbors. What could be more bipartisan than opposing a law to restrict the people’s ability to partake in democracy? After the ad appeared, undecided voters swung to oppose the amendment. Sixty-six newspapers endorsed a no vote; only the tiny Fairmont Sentinel supported the amendment. Our Vote Our Future, the umbrella organization formed to defeat the amendment, couldn’t keep pace with the rush of people offering to volunteer their time.
On Election Day, the stark rural-urban divide that usually defines Minnesota politics evaporated. From the bohos in Uptown Minneapolis to the cake-eaters in Edina, out to the Iron Range and up to the Boundary Waters, Minnesotans rejected the amendment 54 percent to 46 percent.
Full Article: How to Vote Down Voter ID.