St. Paul, MN – The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to conduct a fast-tracked review of the ballot language that would change the city charter to do away with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea put the case on the fast track and ordered both sides to file papers by 5 p.m. on Sept. 15, KARE reported.
A judge struck down the ballot language that the city council had approved for the ballot measure to abolish the Minneapolis police on Sept. 7, just three weeks before early voting is scheduled to begin for the November elections, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
“The Court finds that the Current Ballot Language is vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation, and is insufficient to identify the amendment clearly,” Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson wrote in her ruling.
“It is unreasonable and misleading,” Anderson added.
Anderson heard arguments from both sides in the lawsuit filed by former Minneapolis Councilmember Don Samuels that said the language was too misleading and vague to be put on the ballot, KARE reported.
“Shall the Minneapolis city charter be amended to strike and replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety which could include licensed police officers if necessary, with administrative authority to be consistent with other city departments to fulfill its responsibility to public safety?” was how the wording approved by the council read.
Joe Anthony, attorney for the plaintiff, argued that the language did not clearly explain to voters what they were eliminating, KARE reported.
Anthony said voters couldn’t tell from the wording of the ballot measure that they were eliminating both the police department and the chief of police, that the mayor wouldn’t run the police anymore, or that they would be stripping the minimum number of officers requirement out of the city charter.
“You won’t find that — any of those four things — in any of the language,” the plaintiff’s attorney told the court. “If those future effects can’t be included in this ballot – the future effects of no police chief, no police department, no funding to be ensured – that’s why the question fails to meet Minnesota standards.”
The city council tried to add an explanatory note to the ballot in a last-ditch effort to save the language, but the judge wasn’t having it, KARE reported.
But Anderson ruled that the explanatory note could not be put on the ballot.
On Sept. 7, she ruled that proposed language for the ballot measure was unworkable shortly before ballots were scheduled to go to the printer, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Proponents of abolishing the Minneapolis police were frustrated as this wasn’t the first time their efforts to put the question on the ballot were thwarted at the last minute because of its language.
The city council met the same day the ruling came out and voted on new language for the ballot, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Revised ballot language, including a four-sentence long explanatory note, was submitted to Hennepin County and the Secretary of State’s Office just minutes ahead of the deadline and the ballots were sent for printing.
But when the judge reviewed the new language on Sept. 14, Anderson said it was still “unreasonable and misleading,” KARE reported.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, the group behind the move to put abolishing the police on the ballot, immediately appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
On Sept. 15, the state’s highest court agreed to take up the dispute in an expedited manner, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
“I am confident that the Supreme Court will be able to review this decision, and will make the correct decision under the law,” Terrance W. Moore, the attorney for Yes 4 Minneapolis, told KARE.