Judge weighs whether she must wait to rule in Minneapolis policing ballot fight

·2 min read

The Hennepin County judge overseeing the case over how to phrase a ballot question on Minneapolis policing is mulling whether she can issue a decision – or must wait to see whether the Minnesota Supreme Court will intervene.

Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson asked attorneys on all sides of the fight to provide briefs by 5 p.m. Tuesday outlining their positions on the issue.

The courts are under intense pressure to make quick decisions in the case that is threatening to push a key proposal off the November ballot. Early voting begins Friday, and ballots are already being printed.

The case hinges on how to write a neutral ballot question for a proposal that could clear the way for city officials to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety agency.

The measure, written by a political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis, changes the Minneapolis charter by removing the requirement to keep a police department with a minimum number of officers. It then requires the city to create a new agency providing "a comprehensive public health approach to safety."

For more than a month now, city leaders have been embroiled in political and legal fights over how to interpret those charter changes — and what that means for constructing a neutral ballot question. At the center of the latest debate are questions about how much detail should be included on the ballot and whether city leaders must have a transition plan in place before the election. Lawyers also disagree on whether the issue could be pushed to a future election.

Anderson heard competing arguments in the case Monday morning. Later that day, Yes 4 Minneapolis asked the state's high court to "grant final approval" of the latest ballot question wording and "prohibit any further actions that may lead to the Proposed Amendment being left off the ballot this November."

Attorneys for three residents challenging the fairness of the current ballot question asked the high court not to intervene at this stage. Doing so "would require the Court to reverse a more than 156-year history of refusing to issue advisory opinions," wrote attorneys for businessman Bruce Dachis, nonprofit CEO Sondra Samuels and former City Council Member Don Samuels.

This story is developing and may be updated.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994

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