MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday night for voters in Minneapolis to decide the future of policing in the city where George Floyd was killed, just before advance and postal voting began.
The state’s highest court overturned a lower court ruling that rejected ballot language approved by city council. A district judge said the wording did not 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 judges had concluded that the challenge to the language of the ballot did not meet “high standards” set by the court in previous cases. She said the court would issue a full notice setting out its legal reasoning a little later to avoid obstructing the start of the vote.
“Now voters have the opportunity to make their voices heard on this polling issue,” said city attorney Jim Rowader.
The Supreme Court was under pressure to rule quickly as early and postal voting opens Friday at 8 a.m. in the Minneapolis municipal election. The ballots were already being printed when Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson ruled against the language on Tuesday. This was the second time that she had rescinded the wording of the advice. Gildea put the case on the fast lane on Wednesday.
Lawyers on both sides have said in advance that they expect the High Court’s decision allowing the language of the ballot to be the last word, given the late hour. Leaders of the Yes 4 Minneapolis pro-amendment campaign have a rally scheduled for Friday afternoon.
“We are all very happy that the system worked,” said Terrance Moore, lawyer for Yes 4 Minneapolis. âAs ugly as it may seem at times, the process went from start to finish and in the end, the Supreme Court followed the law and its precedent. And voters can vote on the ballot question. “
The proposal has its roots in the âdefund the policeâ movement, which gained momentum after Floyd’s death last summer sparked protests, civil unrest and a nationwide reckoning on racial justice. The amendment does not use the term âdefundâ. But that would remove the city’s charter requirement that Minneapolis have a minimum-staffed police department. Many details of how the new agency would work would be left to city council and the mayor to decide later.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, which spearheaded the initiative, insists the city would continue to have police officers if voters approve the amendment, but the new department would be free to adopt a new approach to public safety that could reduce excessive policing against communities of color.
Opponents of the amendment, including former board member Don Samuels and his wife Sondra, who instigated the court challenge, said the wording of the ballot left too many important questions unexplained for voters on how the new department would be implemented, directed, staffed and funded. .
The All of Minneapolis anti-amendment campaign said it would start running its first ad on Friday. His message is that the lack of a plan for what to do next if the proposal passes is alarming for many residents, especially given the track records of city council members who have expressed varying degrees of support over time for the proposal. financing or abolishing the police.
Yes 4 Minneapolis argued in its Supreme Court filing 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 passes new laws to establish the new agency, and the council could keep the force in place for as long as needed to an orderly transition.
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