Sep 17, 2021 - Politics
State supreme court approves ballot question on Minneapolis police
Photo of a memorial site outside a Cup Foods store, with a large portrait of George Floyd propped up in the center
A memorial to George Floyd outside the Cup Foods corner store where he died last March. Photo: Nicholas Pfosi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Minneapolis voters will be able to weigh in on the city's police department on the local ballot, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Why it matters: The proposed charter amendment was spurred by mass protests against police brutality after George Floyd's death last year. It would replace the city's police department with a new Department of Public Safety that "could include" police officers "if necessary."

  • The ballot language, which was approved by the City Council, would strike out a requirement that Minneapolis maintains a police department with a minimum staffing level.
  • The specifics of the new safety agency's operations would be left up to the City Council and the mayor.

State of play: A lower court ruled last week that the wording — approved just in time to make it on the ballot — failed to adequately describe the effects of the proposed amendment.

  • But the state's supreme court concluded that the challenge to the language — filed by private residents — did not meet the "high standard" set in legal precedents, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote in the three-page order.
  • With early and absentee voting opening at 8am Friday, the court was under pressure to act quickly and said it would release a full opinion later so voting in the municipal elections can get underway.
  • Lawyers on both sides had agreed the high court's ruling would be the final word given the countdown to Friday, AP reports.

What they're saying: "Lawsuits brought forward by Minneapolis residents who have personal, financial, and political ties to Mayor Jacob Frey were clearly never about the ballot language — they were about trying to steal our right to vote on question 2," the TakeAction Minnesota coalition, which helped spearhead the initiative, said in a statement following the ruling.

  • "In Minneapolis, we know the power of our multiracial democracy, and believe in a unified path forward."

"This is the right call," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement. "The charter amendment itself is fundamentally bad policy. But ... Minneapolis residents deserve the opportunity to weigh in this fall and bring this debate to a close so we can move forward with clarity for our residents' safety."

The big picture: Minneapolis is one of several cities reimagining policing after global Black Lives Matter protests.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.

More Twin Cities stories

No stories could be found

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.