Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Judge promises quick decision on wording of Minneapolis policing ballot language

A judge promised to rule Monday as soon as possible to attack a revised version of a ballot on the future of policing in Minneapolis in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

The city council updated the language last Tuesday, after Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson found the old language was “vague, vague and incapable of implementation” and ordered it to be taken out of the ballot. The proposal has its roots in the “defund the police” movement, which gained momentum following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody last summer, sparking protests, civil unrest and a national reckoning on racial justice.

The proposal would remove the City Charter’s requirement that Minneapolis have a police department with a minimum staffing level and replace it with a new public safety department in which police can be “if necessary” and whose functions and funding are available. The level would later be defined by the mayor and city council.

Joseph Anthony, a lawyer for former council member Don Samuels and the two other petitioners, told Anderson at a hearing Monday that the new language still failed to tell voters what would happen if the amendment was passed. He said it was still not possible for voters to understand how the proposal would be implemented and whether it defames the police. He said the proponents disagreed as to the extent to which the city would still have police and how the new department would run.

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But Terence Moore, an attorney for the Pro-Amendment Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, said the new language meets requirements set forth by the Minnesota Supreme Court in a 2012 case that the wording needs to convey the “essential nature” of the proposal.

Moore said the question should remain on the ballot and be put before the electorate. He said the police department in Minneapolis would remain in place until the city council decided otherwise.

Charter amendments in the municipal election campaign and the future of policing in the city are among the top issues. While the majority of council members support the measure, Major Jacob Frey opposed it and tried to keep it off the ballot.

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Anderson acknowledged he needs to rule quickly as in-person and absentee voting begins Friday.

Judge promises quick decision on wording of Minneapolis policing ballot language
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