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Minneapolis Residents Sue to Stop Ballot Question That Could Defund Police

— September 1, 2021

Three Minneapolis residents say that the current ballot question doesn’t provide enough context for voters.

A group of Minneapolis residents have filed a lawsuit against the city, saying an impending ballot question on defunding local police misleads voters about the proposal’s actual intent and potential repercussions.

According to ABC News, the plaintiffs include former City Council member Don Samuels and his wife, Sondra, who both oppose the referendum.

The third plaintiff is identified by 5KSTP as Bruce Dachis.

In a petition recently submitted to court, attorney Joseph Anthony said the question, as currently worded, “hides” information from prospective voters.

“Voters need to understand that outcome and timeline [of eliminating the police department],” Anthony wrote. “The current ballot question hides that information from them. This must be corrected.”

The approved ballot language, adds 5KSTP, is as follows:

“Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety which could include licensed peace officers [police officers] if necessary, with administrative authority to be consistent with other city departments to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety?”

Voters are given the option to respond with a “yes” or “no.”

While Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey initially rejected the ballot question, his veto was overruled by the City Council.

A Portland Police Department officer wielding a can of pepper spray. Representational image, retrieved via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user:Tony Webster. (CCA-BY-2.0)>

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that the ballot question proposes eliminating the Minneapolis Police Department “without any plan for replacing the department’s critical public safety functions.”

“City residents will be left to fend for themselves,” the lawsuit claims.

ABC News notes that the proposal was written by a political coalition called Yes 4 Minneapolis.

Yes 4 Minneapolis had earlier sued the city, which tried to affix an ‘explanatory note’ to the first rendition of the proposal. This explanatory note detailed some of the potential effects of defunding and disassembling the existing police department.

However, Yes 4 Minneapolis said the city lacked authority to include any such note; their argument was upheld in court.

Yes 4 Minneapolis’s proposal, if approved, will remove language in the city charter mandating a police department with a minimum number of officers. Minneapolis would then create an agency to “integrate” public safety responsibilities “into a comprehensive public health approach to safety.”

This agency, adds ABC News, could retain a certain number of armed and licensed “police officers.”

The lawsuit requests that the current ballot question be blocked and sent back to city officials for revision.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes that the deadline for finalizing the ballot language was August 20th.


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