Judge schedules hearing in request to block latest Minneapolis policing ballot language

By Liz Navratil

MINNEAPOLIS — A Hennepin County judge will hear arguments Monday on a request to block officials from using the latest ballot question for a proposal determining the future of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Judge Jamie Anderson scheduled a 9 a.m. hearing Monday in the case that is raising concerns about whether the proposal could be blocked from the November ballot altogether.

Minneapolis officials have been embroiled in political and legal fights for more than a month now over how to phrase a question on a proposal that has become the central issue in the first municipal races since George Floyd was killed by police.

The hearing will happen four days before early voting is set to begin.

The proposal, written by a political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis, would clear the way for city officials to replace the police department with a new public safety agency.

Yes 4 Minneapolis' proposal removes the requirement for Minneapolis to keep a police department with a minimum number of officers and requires the city to create a new agency providing "a comprehensive public health approach to safety."

Attorneys have fiercely debated how to interpret those changes and how to present a neutral question to voters. Groups on both sides have accused each other of spreading misinformation.

Three Minneapolis residents — businessman Bruce Dachis, nonprofit CEO Sondra Samuels and former City Council Member Don Samuels — who sued the city over a prior version of the ballot question asked her on Wednesday to block it again.

They argue the latest version, approved by city officials on Tuesday, is too similar to one the judge struck down that day.

Their attorney, Norm Pentelovitch, also asked the judge to prohibit city officials "from approving any ballot language … until a plan exists to implement the new department of public safety."

Both Yes 4 Minneapolis and the city are fighting that request. The city characterized the request as "a political effort to prevent this choice from being presented to voters during this election cycle."

In addition to arguing over the merits of the ballot question and whether state law requires it to come before voters in November, the attorneys are also debating legal technicalities about whether the request has been made in a proper way.

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