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In Ad, Current And Former Minnesota Governors Stress Voter Confidence

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Vote. Be patient. Be civil. That's what Minnesota's governor, Tim Walz, asked of his state's residents in a new public service announcement released a few days ago in advance of the final day for voting on Tuesday. But he didn't make that pitch alone. Three of his predecessors joined him in sending that message.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

MARK DAYTON: While we may not agree on every issue...

JESSE VENTURA: We all agree that this election is the most important election of our lifetime.

TIM WALZ: Minnesotans are proud to have the highest voter turnout in the nation.

TIM PAWLENTY: And we expect this year to be no different.

DAYTON: So make your voice heard and vote.

WALZ: Vote.

VENTURA: Go vote.

MARTIN: Walz, a Democrat, and former Minnesota governors Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Jesse Ventura, an independent who ran with the now-defunct Reform Party, all appear in the video explaining why voters may not see final results on election night, but encouraging confidence in the state's voting system nonetheless.

We wanted to know more about why the governors felt the need to deliver this message, so we've called one of them, Jesse Ventura, who served as governor of the state from 1999 to 2003 after a career as a pro wrestler, actor and mayor of Minnesota's fourth-largest city.

Governor Ventura, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

VENTURA: Thank you. Nice to be here.

MARTIN: So tell me what made you want to be part of this ad right now. How did it come together?

VENTURA: Well, I've always been an advocate of voting, you know. I'll go back in my history because there was a time in my life I was denied the right to vote. And that happened when I was 18 years old, and I enlisted in the United States Navy, and I was on active duty in the United States Navy. I spent 13 months being trained. Then I deployed to Vietnam and Southeast Asia for a nine-month tour.

I came back to the United States after going to war, and I was too young to vote because the voting age then was 21, and I was 20. And I was deeply offended by that. I mean, I couldn't vote, I couldn't consume alcohol because I was considered a minor, yet I could go potentially kill for my country or die for my country. And that has stayed with me my entire life.

MARTIN: So voting's always been important to you. Tell me about this ad.

VENTURA: It's been extremely important for me, and I've always voted independent. I saw very quickly at a young age that these two political parties are one and the same. I refer to them as the corporate party of America.

MARTIN: So why did you feel this was important to be a part of this particular message at this particular time?

VENTURA: Because this is probably the most important election in - could be in my lifetime, in my opinion. And the only way it can be a successful election is to have massive voter turnout. And I will say that for the candidates on the national level, the one positive thing they've done is they've increased voter turnout, which is great.

MARTIN: So I think, honestly, it was startling to see all of you together because it's so rare. Now, I don't want - you weren't together together.

VENTURA: (Laughter).

MARTIN: You know, COVID protocols were observed. There was no group hug. I just want to make that clear.

VENTURA: Yeah.

MARTIN: But you've made it clear that your - how can I put it? - your lack of appreciation for the two major political parties. So you've made that clear. But to be part of a unified message like this really stands out. I just wanted to ask why you think that's important.

VENTURA: Well, because there are more candidates than the two.

MARTIN: Well, you could have, though, asked to do your own ad, I mean, rather than being part of this unified deal.

VENTURA: No, I couldn't have. I was called up by Governor Walz. It's his idea.

MARTIN: OK. Tell me more. He called you up. What'd he say?

VENTURA: He called me up, and he said, I have an idea, and I'd like to know if you'd participate. And I said, what's your idea? We're on first-name basis. I said, what's your idea, Tim? He said, I'd like to get you and Governor Dayton and Governor Pawlenty. I've already gotten from them they'll do it. I'd like to see if you would - if we could get all - a bunch of old governors together to ensure that Minnesota - that our voting is good, that if you vote, it'll be counted.

I felt it was a good idea, and I felt that it would be a good one to participate in because I'm always for voting.

MARTIN: Well, in the ad, you also make a point of saying, look - you stress the importance of expecting a possible delay in getting the final vote. In the ad, you say, quote, "a delay just means our system is working," unquote. Why is that an important message to send right now?

VENTURA: Because you've got a president out there lying to the public, as usual, and he's telling everyone you have to have the results the night of the election - which is bogus. It's never been that way. The states themselves haven't even finished counting their votes election night, and it's always been that way. And so for the president to say it's all fixed because we may not have a winner on Tuesday night is just typical Trump lying.

MARTIN: Well, before we let you go, I just want to ask you - I know that you're not a part of that whole crowd, but both candidates were in your state on Friday. Notable they're spending, you know, time there their last week before Election Day. That's always a big thing to see - where do they go right before the voting?

VENTURA: Sure.

MARTIN: Minnesota isn't one of the places traditionally talked about as a swing state. I was just wondering what you make of it. I mean, let me just remind people - President Trump lost the state, but it was really narrow. It was only 1.5 percentage points back in 2016. So what do you make of the fact that they're both there?

VENTURA: Because the state probably is up for grabs somewhat. I don't know. It depends if you believe polling data. If you believe the polling data, it looks like Minnesota's kind of solidly for Biden. But the polling data said that last election and turned out to be false. And so, you know, you've got to dig down deeper than just the polling data. And this year, it's going to come down to who's motivated enough to go out there and vote.

MARTIN: That is former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. His latest book, "The Marijuana Manifesto" (ph), is out now.

VENTURA: Take care, and have a good one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATMOSPHERE'S "I LOVE YOU LIKE A BROTHER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.