This November there will be a referendum on the ballot in Minneapolis that would, in effect, destroy the Minneapolis Police Department. That is — if proponents of the effort can ever write ballot language that can pass muster with the courts.
For the third time this month, a Hennepin County judge struck down ballot language on a proposal determining the future of Minneapolis policing. The issue will now likely go to the state supreme court where its future is far from certain.
Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson wrote in her 17-page opinion, “The Court finds that the New Ballot Question does not ensure that voters are able to understand the essential purpose of the proposed amendment. It is unreasonable and misleading.”
In fact, proponents of Yes4 Minneapolis, the group pushing the destruction of the police force, want the ballot language to be “unreasonable and misleading.” That’s the only hope they have of winning.
Anderson’s ruling came just three days before early voting is set to begin in the first municipal races since George Floyd was killed by police. The proposal has become a central issue in the election and is drawing national attention and money.
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 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.”
No doubt the gangbangers, muggers, and rapists are looking forward to a “comprehensive public health approach” to safety. But the rest of Minneapolis citizens? Not so much.
The latest challenge was brought by three Minneapolis residents — businessman Bruce Dachis, nonprofit CEO Sondra Samuels and former City Council Member Don Samuels — who argued the current version of the ballot question was misleading. Their attorneys also painted a dire picture of what would happen if officials failed to create a plan for the new agency in the 30 days before the change took effect.
Attorneys for Yes 4 Minneapolis and the city pushed back, saying the language needed to be sufficient to tell residents they were voting on the public safety proposal — as opposed to another on the ballot — but cautioned against trying to provide too much explanation, saying that was more appropriate for campaigns.
The absolute worst thing the city and proponents of the ballot measure can do is to provide “too much explanation,” right? People should vote with their hearts, not their heads — especially when it comes to staying safe in a city becoming ever more dangerous.
Judge Anderson may be a Democrat, but she’s blessed with an overabundance of common sense.
“The New Ballot Question is ‘so complex that voters’ cannot be expected to ‘understand the meaning or essential purpose’ of the proposed charter amendment,” she wrote, adding later: “The New Ballot Question is so unreasonable and misleading as to be a palpable evasion of the constitutional requirement to submit the law to a vote.”
A “palpable evasion” sounds a lot like a lie. Indeed, Yes4 Minneapolis has been selling the proposal to reduce the police force and curtail its ability to fight crime as creating a new vision of what “community policing” should be. Instead, the proposal would create a nightmare for city residents already suffering from an increase in violent crime.