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Both Sides Submit Arguments As Minnesota Supreme Court Takes Up Mpls. Ballot Issue

MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — 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 an officer killed George Floyd.

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."

Before the 5 p.m. deadline, the group Yes 4 Minneapolis and the city submitted arguments for overturning Anderson's ruling, while Don Samuels argued it should be upheld.

Yes 4 Minneapolis said the ruling "will keep the citizens of Minneapolis from voting on a indisputably valid proposed charter amendment that seeks to change the way Minneapolis polices."

"The trial court ordered the proposed charter amendment be kept off the ballot this November based on speculative fears, an incorrect burden of proof, and in contravention to the Minnesota Constitution," the group argued in court documents.

Meanwhile, Samuels argued that "a vote cast on a ballot question that is vague, misleading, and fails to identify the 'essential purpose' of a Charter amendment, robs the voter of their agency to make meaningful decisions about their City, community, and personal safety."

"It is unfortunate that Y4M and the City Council have been unable to create ballot question language that properly describes the 'essential purpose' of the propose Charter amendment," Samuels argued. "But this Court need not compound that difficulty by depriving voters of an opportunity to know what they are being asked to decide. Democracy demands more."

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.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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