Supreme Court fast tracks Minneapolis ballot issue on police

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to take up a dispute over whether Minneapolis residents will decide a ballot question on the future of policing in the city where George Floyd died in police custody.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea put the case on the fast track, ordering all sides to file papers by 5 p.m. Her order followed a ruling by Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson on Tuesday that the ballot language approved by the City Council was “unreasonable and misleading.”

The lower court ruling allows election officials to use existing ballots because it’s too late to change them ahead of Friday’s start of early and absentee voting. But it prohibits election officials from counting any votes cast on the issue.

The proposal has its roots in the “defund the police” movement, which gained momentum after Floyd’s death last summer sparked protests, civil unrest and a national reckoning on racial justice. It would remove the city charter’s requirement that Minneapolis have a police department with a minimum staffing level and replace it with a new Department of Public Safety that “could have” police “if necessary.”

Opponents argue that the ballot language failed to make the ramifications clear to voters. Supporters of the change say the city would still have police even though the charter would no longer mandate it.