Minneapolis voters on November 2 will vote for mayor and city council members as well as on three “hot button” ballot questions: Whether or not to give the mayor more authority; whether or not to create a new public safety department to replace the current police department; and whether or not to give the city council the authority to regulate rents on private residential properties.
Some suspect that the ballot questions could adversely affect voting turnout, especially among Blacks and other People of Color. “Everybody’s confused, even the most scholarly political pundit,” stated Black Voices Matter MN Founder Anika Robbins, who founded her organization in 2015 as a nonprofit initiative dedicated to voter education, outreach and registration. “We recognized the gap in voter education, especially to our communities,” she told the MSR last week.
A voter’s guide has been produced and made available publicly that offers details on the candidates for Minneapolis mayor, city council, the Park Board, and the Board of Estimate and Taxation in this year’s municipal election, as well as a breakdown of the three ballot questions.
“We have very detailed explanations about what each of those things means,” explained Robbins. “What does it mean if you vote yes? What does it mean if you vote no? It is very comprehensive. It’s nonpartisan,” she stressed.
Yet Robbins admits that despite efforts by Black Voices Matter MN and others to inform voters, confusion and misinformation still exist, especially in regards to Ballot Question 2 on whether or not to keep the police department.
“I think there’s an assumption that [all] Black people are in favor of getting rid of the police,” she said. “If I may speak on behalf of Black people, Black people just want the police to stop killing Black men and women. No one’s really said, ‘Let’s get rid of the police department,’ although there are obviously schools of thought that promote that, and there’s some merit to the [view that] policing cannot be the end cure for all of the various inequalities that our communities are facing.”
Robbins furthermore predicted that the three ballot questions will “drive people to the polls. We’re going to see in the 2021 election increased participation, especially in various Communities of Color, especially the Black community,” she said.
Reportedly, Minneapolis may set a new early voter turnout record, according to City officials. “Local elections have local impacts,” said Robbins. “More and more people are becoming more aware of this.
“Since we started, we’ve seen change,” she pointed out. “We’ve engaged more, registered over 6,000 people to vote—80% of them are Black people, and the remaining 20 [percent] are Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and 40% youth.
“We can’t tell you all who to vote for, but what we can do is [make] side-by-side comparisons between the candidates so you can make an informed decision,” said Robbins.
Robbins advises that voting on November 2 is not enough “even after these elections, because depending on the outcome there will still be more work to be done staying engaged, like talking with city council members and legislators. They’re not celebrities. They represent your interests,” she said. “If they don’t hear from you, then they don’t know what matters to you.”
For more information on the 2021 Black Voters Matters MN voter’s guide, visit www.blackvotesmattermn.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.