Sep 16, 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.


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