Judge rejects Minneapolis ballot language on replacing police 

Anderson’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by three Minneapolis residents.

A family bikes near the Hennepin County Government Center with a sign calling for the abolition of the Minneapolis Police Department shortly after George Floyd's death. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

A Hennepin County judge tossed out the Minneapolis City Council’s proposed ballot language to “strike and replace” the police department with a new department of public safety, saying it was “vague to the point of being misleading.”

Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson said the proposed ballot language was “vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation” in a Tuesday ruling.

“For these reasons, the Court finds Petitioners have proven by a preponderance of the evidence that inclusion of the Current Ballot Language on the ballot would be both an error and wrongful act under § 204B.44 because the proposed language is insufficient to identify the amendment clearly, it does not assist the voter in easily and accurately identifying what is being voted on, and it is vague and ambiguous to the point of misleading voters, all of which make it unjust,” Anderson wrote.

Up until Tuesday’s decision, Minneapolis residents were set to take up the question of amending the city charter to “strike and replace” the police department with a new department of public safety, which “could include” police officers “if necessary.”

The charter amendment also calls for removing a requirement that the city fund a minimum number of police officers per resident, eliminating the position of “police chief,” and deleting language that grants the mayor “complete power” over the police.

The City Council called an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon and passed revised language with an explanatory note.

Yes 4 Minneapolis successfully petitioned to get the question on the November ballot, but the final language has undergone several revisions by the City Council, which was on a tight deadline Tuesday to agree on new language so that the ballots could be sent to the printer by the end of the business day.

City Attorney Jim Rowader indicated that the ballot language could still be rejected by Hennepin County if they find that it is “substantially similar” to the language rejected by Judge Anderson.

Anderson’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by three Minneapolis residents, including former Council Member Don Samuels and his wife, Sondra.

“Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council approved an incomplete and misleading ballot question regarding an amendment to the City Charter that would eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department without any plan for replacing that department’s critical public safety functions. If approved, the new charter sections will become effective on December 2, 2021, and Minneapolis will no longer have a police department. Voters need to understand that outcome and timeline. The current ballot question hides that information from them,” their lawsuit said.

The charter amendment has caused significant division among Minnesota Democrats, who both support and oppose the effort.

This is a developing story. Check back at Alpha News for updates. 

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