Lawsuit filed over Minneapolis policing ballot question

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three Minneapolis residents are suing the city over a ballot question on how to change policing in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police.

They argue the ballot language city officials approved in August is misleading and fails to inform voters about key aspects of the proposal.

“Voters need to understand that outcome and timeline,” attorney Joseph Anthony wrote in the court petition on behalf of Don and Sondra Samuels and Bruce Dachis. "The current ballot question hides that information from them. This must be corrected.”

Attorneys for the city said they were reviewing the lawsuit.

More than a year after Floyd’s death sparked a failed push to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, a well-funded group of activists and several City Council members are trying again. Their initiative would ask voters in November to replace the police department with a “public safety department” that employs licensed peace officers.

It's the second time in a month that Minneapolis has been sued over how it chose to ask voters whether they want to clear the way for city officials to replace the police department with a new agency.

The proposal was written by a new political coalition called Yes 4 Minneapolis, which sued after the city attached an explanatory note to the ballot question. The coalition argued the city didn’t have authority to include the note and that the language was “misleading.”

Before the court now is a question of whether Minneapolis officials should revise the language that appears on the ballot when voters decide the fate of the department. Early voting begins Sept. 17.

The proposal Yes 4 Minneapolis wrote would remove language in the charter that requires the city to keep a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population. The city would then create an agency responsible for “integrating” public safety functions “into a comprehensive public health approach to safety.” The new agency could have police “if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.”

Attorneys for Dachis and the Samuelses argue that the question should mention that, if approved, it would remove three things from the charter: minimum funding requirements for police, a reference to the police chief’s job and a line that gives the mayor “complete power” over police operations, the Star Tribune reported.

The lawsuit asks the courts to block city, state and Hennepin County officials from issuing ballots with the current question listed on it. They want a judge to send the question back to the city for revision.

The Associated Press

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