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Judge Strikes Minneapolis Police Ballot Question

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) --A Hennepin County judge struck down the controversial Minneapolis charter amendment ballot question on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the wording was "unreasonable and misleading."

The judge argued that the new ballot question does not ensure that voters are able to understand the purpose of the proposed amendment.

The ballot question asks voters whether the city should replace its police department with a department of public safety. The Minneapolis City Council approved new ballot language last week after a judge overruled the previous question.

But an emergency hearing was held Monday following another lawsuit arguing that the ballot language is still too vague and misleading.

Petitioners said the new language remains unclear on what the amendment will do and how the changes could be implemented within 30 days of the election. The challenge -- from a group including former City Councilman Don Samuels and his wife Sondra -- says even the revised wording is misleading and should be thrown out. The respondents argued that the motion is not on the merits of the proposed ballot amendments but rather the ballot question.

However, attorneys for Yes4Minneapolis -- the group that seeks to defund the Minneapolis Police Department -- says the referendum would simply give power to the city council to decide the future of policing in Minneapolis.

"Though the issue is ripe for political debate, the Court does not and will not weigh in on whether the underlying charter amendment is good policy," Judge Jaime Anderson wrote. "However, the Court is tasked with determining the public policy considerations regarding the allowance of a question to be posed to voters on a ballot in an election when that question is misleading and fails to identify the essential purpose of the amendment. Clearly it is not good public policy to ask voters to vote, either in favor or against, an insufficiently identified and misleading question on the ballot."

City Council President Lisa Bender said that the city will appeal the ruling.

"We who seek justice and safety for all, in the city where George Floyd was murdered will not be silenced because a judge, a mayor, a charter commission, the Police Federation, or corporate developer money have attempted to thwart democracy," Yes4Minneapolis said on Twitter.

The judge said in the order that the new question may remain on the ballots which are currently being printed, but if an appeal on the order has not been decided before voting begins Friday, the city must provide a notice to say that votes cast on the ballot question will not be counted.

By law the city and county are required to send out absentee ballots Friday to people who have requested for them. However, the delays could disenfranchise overseas voters, including members of the military. Hennepin County, which is in charge of printing and sending out the ballots, argued in a court filing that if the wording is changed again it could mean not counting the amendment votes at all.

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