MN Court OKs Ballot Question on Police 09/17 06:21
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday
evening for voters in Minneapolis to decide on the future of policing in the
city where George Floyd was killed, just ahead of the start of early and
The state's highest court overturned a lower court ruling that rejected
ballot language approved by the City Council. A district judge said the wording
failed to adequately describe the effects of a proposed charter amendment that
would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public
Safety that "could include" police officers "if necessary."
But Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in a three-page order that the justices
concluded that the challenge to the ballot language did not meet the "high
standard" that the court set in earlier cases. She said the court will issue a
full opinion laying out its legal reasoning sometime later to avoid impeding
the start of voting.
"Now voters have the opportunity to make their voices heard on this ballot
question," City Attorney Jim Rowader said.
The Supreme Court was under pressure to rule quickly because early and
absentee voting opens at 8 a.m. Friday in the Minneapolis municipal elections.
The ballots were already being printed when Hennepin County District Judge
Jamie Anderson ruled against the language Tuesday. It was the second time she
had struck down the council's wording. Gildea put the case on the fast track
Lawyers on both sides said beforehand that they expected the high court
ruling allowing the ballot language to be the final word, given the late hour.
Leaders of the pro-amendment Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign have a rally set for
"We're all very pleased that the system worked," said Terrance Moore, an
attorney for Yes 4 Minneapolis. "As ugly as it sometimes looks, the process
went through from beginning to end and in the end the Supreme Court followed
the law and its precedent. And the voters get to vote on the ballot question."
The proposal has its roots in the "defund the police" movement, which gained
steam after Floyd's death last summer sparked protests, civil unrest and a
national reckoning on racial justice. The amendment does not use the term
"defund." But it would remove the city charter's requirement that Minneapolis
have a police department with a minimum staffing level. Many details of how the
new agency would work would be left up to the the City Council and mayor to
Yes 4 Minneapolis, which spearheaded the initiative, insists that the city
would continue to have police if voters approve the amendment, but that the new
department would be free to take a fresh approach to public safety that could
reduce excessive policing against communities of color.
Opponents of the amendment, including former council member Don Samuels and
his wife, Sondra, who were behind the court challenge, said the ballot language
leaves too many important questions unexplained for voters about how the new
department would be implemented, led, staffed and funded.
The All of Minneapolis anti-amendment campaign said it will start running
its first ad on Friday. Its message is that the lack of a plan for what comes
next if the proposal passes is alarming to many residents, especially given the
track record of City Council members who have expressed varying degrees of
support over time for defunding or abolishing the police.
Yes 4 Minneapolis argued in its filing with the Supreme Court that the
Minneapolis Police Department would not automatically disappear if the
amendment passed. The group said the department would continue to exist under
current city ordinances until the City Council passed new laws to establish the
new agency, and that the council could keep the force in place as long as
necessary for an orderly transition.