Two World War II veterans and an Army major who worked for the Secretary of State urged Minnesotans to vote against a proposed photo ID amendment on Thursday.
At a news conference sponsored by the anti-photo ID group Our Vote Our Future, World War II vets El Elwert of Forest Lake and Joseph Rukavina of White Bear Lake said the ID requirement was an affront to soldiers who fought and died for U.S. values and democracy.
"It's not a privilege, it's a must," said Ewert, an Army veteran who was drafted into combat at age 18, before he was able to vote. "I made sure from that day on I would vote in every election...." he said.
"Why complicate something that we were fighting for?" he asked.
Rukavina, uncle of retiring state Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, was on Iwo Jima before he attained the voting age, which then was 21. "All these young kids were dying ... all these young people that did not have the right to a ballot." He called the photo ID requirement complicated and costly and added, "It is to stop people from voting."
The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971.
Nancy Davis-Ortiz, retired from the U.S. Army, said she is concerned about how the amendment will affect homeless veterans. Army Major Todd Pierce, who worked for the Minnesota Secretary of State on military voting issues, said he is concerned voting by overseas military will be far more complicated if the amendment passes.
He reiterated the position of Our Vote Our Future's television ad that the military ID would not be acceptable under the new system. He noted that active military IDs do not say where the service member lives.
Pierce said his job at the Secretary of State involved receiving complaints of election irregularities. "None of them went to the issue of voter impersonation," he said. The ID requirement is mainly designed to prevent voter impersonation, in which one person votes under another person's name.
Photo ID foes say there is no evidence of this happening, but photo ID supporters say it is impossible to tell without an ID requirement.
ProtectMyVote.com, the main organization supporting photo ID, has asked an administrative law judge to declare that an ad by Our Vote Our Future violates campaign laws by falsely claiming that the ID requirement will invalidate military IDs for voting. That case is pending.
"The entire opposition campaign is based on misinformation," said Dan McGrath of ProtectMyVote.com.
In its main TV ad, ProtectMyVote.com features a World War II veteran, Capt. Robert McWhite, who describes being shot down over Europe and being held as a prisoner of war. "The right to vote is central to our way of life, and it should be protected and treated with the dignity it deserves," he says in the ad. "Voting was worth protecting then, and I believe it now."
A KSTP-TV poll taken last weekend showed that the ID amendment appears headed for passage, with 55 percent saying they'll vote "yes" and 40 percent saying they'll vote "no," and five percent undecided.