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Stories about Minnesota

District judge rules against ballot initiative to replace Minneapolis Police Department; Supreme Court will hear appeal

Voters in Minneapolis will see a citizen-initiated charter amendment on their ballots to replace the Minneapolis Police Department. On Sept. 14, however, District Court Judge Jamie Anderson ruled that the ballot question for the proposal was unreasonable and misleading and enjoined election officials from counting votes on Nov. 2. On Sept. 15, the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would have final jurisdiction, agreed to hear an appeal.

Judge Anderson has ruled on the ballot language on three occasions. On Aug. 13, Anderson ruled against the Minneapolis City Council for including a statement summarizing the ballot measure that “[waded] into a grey area of explanation that is not allowed.” On Sept. 7, Anderson struck down a ballot question as “vague to the point of being misleading” and said that “ambiguities risk creating a ‘chaotic situation’ in Minneapolis.” The Minneapolis City Council approved a different, longer ballot question in response to the judge’s order. On Sept. 14, Anderson struck down the new council-approved ballot question. As ballots went to print on Sept. 7, the Minneapolis City Council cannot again change the question on the November ballot. The previous two cases were not appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

The ballot initiative followed the Minneapolis City Council’s attempt to craft an ordinance replacing the MPD following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, was charged and sentenced for murder and manslaughter. The Minneapolis City Council approved legislation for a ballot in 2020, but, on Aug. 5, 2020, the city’s charter commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal and not send the proposal back to the City Council, blocking the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2020. 

In 2021, the campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis launched a ballot initiative campaign to replace the MPD. Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, is the board chairperson of Yes 4 Minneapolis, and JaNaé Bates, a theologian and communications director of ISAIAH, is the campaign’s communications director. Through the most recent report filing deadline on July 27, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $1.48 million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center and $430,383 from MoveOn.

The ballot initiative has the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D). Opponents include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-2), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D). A campaign called All of Mpls is opposing the proposal. Through July 27, All of Mpls raised $109,465. 

The ballot initiative is one of three policing-related local measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021, that Ballotpedia is covering. The others are a ballot initiative in Austin, Texas, to require a minimum number of police officers; and a ballot initiative in Cleveland, Ohio, to create a commission to oversee police misconduct investigations and discipline.



Minneapolis City Council approves new ballot question for initiative to replace Minneapolis Police Department 

On Sept. 7, the Minneapolis City Council held an emergency meeting to adopt language for a citizen-initiated measure to replace the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) with a Department of Public Safety (DPS). The 12-1 vote came hours after District Court Judge Jamie Anderson struck down the then-existing language as “vague to the point of being misleading.” Sept. 7 was also the deadline for the ballot to be finalized for printing ahead of the election on Nov. 2, 2021. 

The language that Judge Anderson enjoined was a 47-word question. The new language includes a 110-word question and an additional 73-word statement addressing several topics not mentioned in the prior version, including:

  • the DPS employing a “comprehensive public health approach,” with functions determined via ordinance;
  • the mayor and council, rather than just the mayor, being involved in maintaining and commanding the department; and
  • the elimination of the police chief and police minimum funding requirement from the city’s charter.

The City Council also changed the phrase strike and replace the MPD with a DPS to remove and replace the MPD with a DPS. Both versions state that the DPS would include licensed police officers should officers be considered necessary.

Judge Anderson said that ambiguities in the prior ballot question “risk creating a ‘chaotic situation’ in Minneapolis.” There were three issues, in particular, that Judge Anderson said were ambiguous: (1) whether the Minneapolis Police Department will cease to exist as of Dec. 2, 2021; (2) whether the position of police chief would be eliminated; and (3) whether a funding mechanism would exist for the new Department of Public Safety.

The citizen-initiated ballot measure followed the Minneapolis City Council’s attempt to craft an ordinance replacing the MPD following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, was charged and sentenced for murder and manslaughter. The Minneapolis City Council approved legislation for a ballot in 2020, but, on Aug. 5, 2020, the city’s charter commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal and not send the proposal back to the City Council, blocking the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2020. 

In 2021, the campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis launched a ballot initiative to replace the MPD. Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, is the board chairperson of Yes 4 Minneapolis, and JaNaé Bates, a theologian and communications director of ISAIAH, is the campaign’s communications director. Through July 27, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $1.48 million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center and $430,383 from MoveOn.

The ballot initiative has the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D). Opponents include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-2), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D). A campaign called All of Mpls is opposing the proposal. Through July 27, All of Mpls raised $109,465. 

The ballot initiative is one of three policing-related local measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021, that Ballotpedia is covering. The others include a ballot initiative in Austin, Texas, to require a minimum number of police officers; and a ballot initiative in Cleveland, Ohio, to create a commission to oversee police misconduct investigations and discipline.

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17 candidates file for Minneapolis mayoral election

The filing deadline passed to run for elected office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, passed on Aug. 10. Candidates filed for the following offices:

  1. Mayor 
  2. City Council (Wards 1-13)
  3. Board of Estimate and Taxation
  4. Park and Recreation Commissioner At Large (3 seats)
  5. Park and Recreation Commissioner (Districts 1-6)

Seventeen candidates filed for the mayoral election, including incumbent Jacob Frey (D). Frey was first elected mayor in 2017. He served on the city council before becoming mayor. He was first elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 2013. 

Ward 9 and Ward 10 are the only seats on the city council with no incumbents running. 

There will be no primary held. Minneapolis will utilize a ranked-choice voting system for the general election that is scheduled for Nov. 2. 

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota and the 46th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Filing deadline approaches to run for municipal office in Minneapolis, St. Paul

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota is on Aug. 10. Prospective candidates may file for:

The nonpartisan general election is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Elections for all five offices will use ranked choice-voting. A ranked-choice voting system is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are, respectively, the first- and second-largest cities in Minnesota, and the 46th- and 65th-largest in the U.S. by population.



Minneapolis City Council votes to certify Nov. 2 ballot language for initiative to replace police department

On July 23, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a ballot question and explanatory note for a citizen initiative that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The initiative would remove language on the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the police department. It would also create a department of public safety. The measure would allow the new department to include “licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate and the city council would appoint the commissioner of the public safety department.

Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted more than the required 11,906 valid signatures for the initiative on April 30. The city clerk certified the petition on May 14.

The city council’s vote was to (a) set the ballot language for the measure and (b) accept a city attorney report stating the measure concerned a proper subject matter for the city charter and is constitutional. The resolution now goes to the mayor’s desk; he has five days to sign or veto it. Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the initiative, but the resolution before him does not affect whether the measure will go on the ballot.

Frey’s office stated, “Mayor Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance. The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis stated, “It all started in Minneapolis. Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed a community movement against state-sanctioned violence — a movement to better protect Black lives. […] Our movement demands our city leaders move away from violent policing to create a department that addresses community safety holistically and with a public health approach. Our movement believes that the community should decide what safety looks like. To do so, we must amend the city charter that was written in 1961 and forces us to build on a broken system. We are proud to bring this issue to voters this November.”

The city council considered putting its own charter amendment to replace the police department on the Nov. 2 ballot. But sponsors withdrew the measure when Yes 4 Minneapolis’ initiative qualified for the ballot citing concerns over confusing voters. The city council passed a similar charter amendment in 2020, but the city’s charter commission effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot by taking the full time allotted to it for review.

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Minnesota, Pennsylvania announce plans to lift face covering requirements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) announced May 6 that he will end the statewide mask mandate on July 1. Walz said the mask mandate could be lifted earlier if 70% of residents age 16 and older receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) said on May 4 he will end the statewide mask mandate when 70% of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Wolf did not announce a target date for ending the restrictions.

Ballotpedia tracked four other amendments to statewide mask orders over the last week:

*Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended the state’s mask order on May 2. The updated order lifts the requirement for people to wear masks in indoor spaces with more than 10 people if 80% of those individuals are fully vaccinated. The order does not say what proof is necessary to demonstrate vaccination status.

*Michigan Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel issued an order May 4 lifting the outdoor mask requirement for gatherings of fewer than 100 people. Additionally, players in organized contact sports are no longer required to wear masks.

*Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an emergency directive updating the statewide mask mandate order to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance on May 3. The updated language states that people “shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face covering in a manner consistent with current guidance issued by the CDC, and any subsequent guidance issued by the CDC.” 

*Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) revised the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents and visitors on May 1. Masks are now only required in crowded settings when social distancing isn’t possible. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including 20 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and five out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 14 states that have ended statewide public mask requirements, 11 have Republican governors and 3 have Democratic governors. Eleven states have ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) have ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) has ended its mandate through court order.



Minnesota GOP to elect new chair in April

Last week, we brought you a story about conflicts within the Democratic Party of Nevada. Today, we turn to a similar event in Minnesota, where two party leaders are engaged in a race for party chair.

In April, the Republican Party of Minnesota will hold an election for party chair. Two-term incumbent Jennifer Carnahan is seeking a third term against state Senator Mark Koran (R). Approximately 340 party members from around the state will meet in a virtual convention to vote for the next chair. These party members were selected at 121 local conventions, also known as basic political operating units (BPOUs), 60 of which were directly managed by Carnahan and state party staffers. Koran has alleged that this constitutes a conflict of interest: “It’s a massive conflict of interest. Free, fair, open and transparent elections have to be the basic foundation of what we do. If you have distrust in the process, it’s difficult to get people to accept the results of those conventions.” Carnahan has denied the allegation: “There was no impropriety. … The real conflict of interest here is [Koran] trying to serve in the state Legislature and trying to run the party at the same time.”

Joe Witthuhn, a party member and Carnahan supporter who helped conduct some BPOUs, said, “If I thought she rigged even one individual vote, I would not support her anymore.” Nathan Raddatz, a party member and Koran supporter said, “The best thing would have been to pull the party out of this and let the individual districts hire somebody, to alleviate accusations of a party and the current chair rigging the election.”

The Star Tribune has described the race for chair as a crucial event in shaping the party’s prospects heading into 2022: “Whoever wins the party leadership race in April will have to immediately focus on 2022, when the governor’s office will be on the ballot, along with all 201 legislative seats. DFL Gov. Tim Walz is expected to run for a second term, but no front runner has emerged on the GOP side.”

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Minnesota reopens middle, high schools to in-person instruction

In Minnesota, all middle and high school students were permitted to return to the classroom for either full-time in-person or hybrid instruction starting Feb. 22. Gov. Tim Walz (D) said he expects all schools to offer some in-person instruction by March 8. Parents can still opt to keep their children home for remote instruction.

Previously, high schools and middle schools could only reopen if local health officials approved reopening based on county health data. Elementary schools were allowed to open regardless of COVID-19 case data on Jan. 18.

Nationwide:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Four states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
  • One state (W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Forty-one states left decisions to schools or districts.


Jim Hagedorn wins re-election to Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District

Incumbent Jim Hagedorn (R) defeated challengers Dan Feehan (D) and Bill Rood (Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota) in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

The election was one of 56 U.S. House rematches taking place this year. In 2018, this seat was left open as incumbent Tim Walz (D) ran for governor. Hagedorn defeated Feehan 50.1% to 49.7% to become one of three Republicans who flipped a seat from Democrats that year. Preliminary returns indicate that Hagedorn expanded his margin over Feehan in 2020, winning 48.6% to 45.5%.

Both parties’ national committees targeted this district in 2020. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC spent a combined $5.2 million, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $4.2 million.



Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recall effort under review by state supreme court

A recall effort has been filed against Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) over his mask mandate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Minnesota Supreme Court will now review whether the grounds for recall stated in the petition are sufficient and meet statutory requirements. Two earlier efforts to recall Walz were dismissed by the supreme court because the petitions did not meet the legal standards to recall an elected official.

The ‘’Recall Governor Tim Walz’’ group said about the recall effort, “We are hopeful that court gives this petition the fair review it deserves, as we continue fighting on behalf of all freedom loving Minnesotans. As a reminder, the recall is about justice – forcing Walz to personally answer for the tyranny he has imposed for months on end, with no end in sight.” As of October 1, 2020, Walz had not made a statement regarding the recall.

Minnesota is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 35-32 margin and Democrats control the state House by a 75-59 margin. Walz was elected as Minnesota’s governor in 2018 with 53.8% of the vote.

Eighteen gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. Nine of those efforts are against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

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Tim Walz
Gubernatorial recalls