MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Early voting has started across Minnesota Friday. In Minneapolis, voters will get to decide the future of the city’s police department.
On Thursday night, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Minneapolis residents will vote on a question that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. A lower court had ruled the language was too vague, but now any votes on the measure will count.
Minneapolis voters will also be choosing a mayor and city council members.
Already the city is sending out nearly 3,600 requested mail-in ballots, a record for a municipal election. In the last municipal election in 2017, the city mailed out 3,369 ballots total.
Among the first-day voters was attorney Chris Henjum, who said he was enthusiastically in favor of the amendment and would like a more “nuanced and tailored” approach to public safety. Changes to how authorities respond to mental health calls and low-level traffic stops would “both protect residents but also protect police from preventable incidents,” he said.
“I think the city’s seen a clear track record of unrest, and it’s time to change the status quo to make public safety accountable to its residents,” Henjum said.
Laurie Schlosser, a child psychologist, voted against the amendment, calling it “too vague and too quick.” She lives on the city’s north side, where several residents have died in shootings in the past year, including children who were unintended targets of gun violence between rival gangs, according to police. She agreed the city needs a public health approach to public safety, as amendment advocates envision, but she would like to see those programs built up and working first.
“Our children are traumatized, our teens, our adults, our families are grieving and suffering, and being down 200 officers is not working,” Schlosser said. “We need to build up the public health approach before having any chance of being able to decrease the number of officers.”
Minneapolis officials are reminding residents that mail-in ballots must be received by election day, and voters should allow for seven to ten days for their ballot to arrive.
Another option is to vote at the Early Vote Center on 980 East Hennepin Avenue. Officials say that it is especially helpful for those who need language support or other accommodations, such as curbside voting.
Cities and school districts across the state have a variety of races and questions on the ballot. For example, Lakeville voters will be asked whether to increase property taxes to fund improvements to area parks. To learn about what is on your ballot this year, click here.
Early voting goes through Nov. 1. Election day is Nov. 2.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)