The first city election since the police murder of George Floyd drew Minneapolis residents to the polls in droves, with a historic number of early voters casting ballots for a municipal election.
Minneapolis voters will choose a mayor and City Council but also answer two ballot questions that could reshape the powers of government and public safety. Another would pave the way for rent control.
“Minneapolis has a very engaged and active voter base,” said City Clerk Casey Carl. “We enjoy turnout in all of our elections that is higher than most cities around the world. We had a mayor say before that Minneapolis is the voting-est city in the voting-est state in the United States.”
Policing and public safety have dominated the election, with voters getting to decide the fate of the police department after Floyd’s murder inspired local and national protests, including calls to defund police.
The election comes after a tumultuous 18 months of calls for police reform and rising gun violence.
Before the pandemic and Floyd unrest, the City Council spent its four-year term enacting progressive policies such as a $15 minimum wage and the Minneapolis 2040 plan that abolished zoning for single-family homes.
Geri Neal, 69, and Catra Allen, 34, voted together in the Longfellow neighborhood, choosing to replace the police department, reelect Frey and give him more power.
“We need some change here with our communities, with each other and with our police department,” Neal said.
Neal, who is Black, said her hope for a new department of public safety would be that it has more officers from the communities they serve and who work to get to know people.
“It’s like you seeing your postman every day. You know this man and you trust him,” Neal said. “I think they could get the community to open up a little more, to tell them if something happens.”
Fewer than 10% of officers on the force live in Minneapolis, and oftentimes witnesses fear working with the police, making it difficult to bring charges in shootings and other crimes. The department is also whiter than the city as a whole, although Neal and Allen said the color of the officer isn’t as important to them as having ones they know and trust.
“To me it doesn’t matter if you’re a Black officer or a white officer. If I don’t know you, I don’t know you,” Neal said.
“We need more familiar ones,” said Allen, who is also Black. “It’s easier to rebuild trust with someone from your own community than the police we have now.”
Neal and Allen also both voted to …….