Minnesota Supreme Court agrees to speedy review of Minneapolis police ballot question

The legal fight over the Minneapolis police ballot question is headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Justices agreed Wednesday to an 11th-hour review of the case after a Hennepin County judge tossed the police question from the city ballot. It's unclear whether the Supreme Court will rule by Friday's start of early voting, though justices told both sides to rush legal briefs to them by Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the political group that got the police proposal on November's ballot asked its supporters to wait to vote until the legal fight is settled. A spokeswoman for Yes 4 Minneapolis told reporters that Friday doesn't represent a "hard stop" and the group would keep pressing the Supreme Court to step in after voting starts.

"We are asking folks hold off on voting until we get some more clarity on this," said JaNaé Bates, the group's spokeswoman. "We want folks to vote."

Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson ruled Tuesday that the ballot language was "unreasonable and misleading" and blocked Minneapolis from counting votes on the question. If an appeal is pending when early voting starts, the city must tell voters not to vote on this question, Anderson said in her ruling.

Minneapolis and Hennepin County election officials said they were printing a ballot insert that would provide voters notice about Anderson's ruling. Thousands of ballots have been printed with the now-invalidated police question on them.

The question asks voters if they want to change the city's charter, getting rid of the police department, police chief, and the city's required minimum number of police staff. Future city councils and mayors could decide how many police officers should be employed in a newly formed public safety agency.

The three city residents who sued to block the ballot question huddled with their attorney Wednesday, announcing an interest to work with the city and Yes 4 Minneapolis on last-minute language.

"If we’re going to have a ballot question – and we want a ballot question – it has to tell people what they’re voting for or against," said Sondra Samuels, one of the city residents who filed the lawsuit.

Their attorney, Joe Anthony, said he was unsure if the Supreme Court would schedule oral arguments. Asked whether he would advise the police question's opponents to wait to vote until the court weighs in, he said it hadn't been discussed.

"We haven’t talked about that question whether we would encourage people to vote early or wait. Right now, we would encourage people to vote no on that question," he said.

Bates, the Yes 4 Minneapolis spokeswoman, said her group was continuing to put "faith and hope" in the legal process to get the issue on the 2021 ballot. She declined to say if the group was already thinking about the 2022 ballot.

"Democracy and the will of the people and the legal standing is on our side, and we are most certainly hoping the Supreme Court rules in our favor," she said.