Military veterans have moved front and center in the debate over Minnesota’s proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. For voter ID supporters, veterans are a symbol to sell their message of election integrity. Opponents have turned to veterans to point out the potential problems that soldiers could face when they try to vote. The pro-amendment campaign organization Protect My Vote started airing its first television ad last month. The 30-second spot features Robert McWhite of Minneapolis, a 91-year-old World War II veteran and former prisoner of war in Europe, who talks about defending the nation and its ideals. “Nothing is more central to America’s success than the right to vote,” McWhite says in the ad. “That’s why I’m supporting the effort to protect that right by showing photo ID.” Dan McGrath, chairman of Protect My Vote, told Minnesota Public Radio that the ad is certain to appeal to voters who respect the military.
“We did focus group testing on a number of different concepts, and one of them was around the idea of defending democracy,” he said. “We tied the idea of defending democracy in war, military veterans, with voter ID, and it focus-group-tested very well. So that’s how our ad came together.” Additionally, McGrath said, the ad tries to address accusations from amendment opponents that a photo ID requirement could make it harder for soldiers, veterans and the elderly to vote. He insists that everyone who is eligible to vote will be able to obtain an ID and cast a ballot. As for current military personnel, McGrath insisted nothing will get in their way. “Soldiers overseas are protected by federal laws, and their vote can’t be threatened by a constitutional amendment or a state statute,” McGrath said. Voter ID opponents said the amendment would threaten the ability of soldiers to vote. Greta Bergstrom, a spokeswoman for the anti-amendment campaign organization Our Vote Our Future, said the pro-amendment ad uses “powerful imagery” to mislead voters.