The Potluck

Minneapolis breaks turnout record for off-year city election

By: - November 3, 2021 5:11 pm

A voter casts a ballot at Brackett Recreation Center in Minneapolis on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Minneapolis voters posted a record turnout for an off-year municipal election on Tuesday, with 54% of registered voters casting their vote in the historic election that will reshape the city’s governmental structure.

“This year we’ve truly exceeded all expectations,” said City Clerk Casey Carl, who is also the city’s chief elections official. In 2017, turnout was 43%, and in 2013, 33%. 

More than 145,000 ballots were cast in the election, about 79% of which were cast in person on Election Day. Even before Election Day, the city broke a 45-year record for early voting. 

All 13 City Council seats, the mayor’s seat, and three consequential charter amendments were on the ballot: restructuring government to give more power to the mayor, replacing the police department with a new department of public safety and opening the door for the city council to enact rent control. 

City Attorney Jim Rowader said passage of the first ballot measure giving the mayor more power means city government will restructure so the reelected Mayor Jacob Frey acts like a CEO and the City Council serves as the legislative body. He said the 2022 budget process will continue as scheduled, however. 

The third ballot measure also passed, opening the door to potential development of a rent stabilization ordinance. Rowader said some background research has been done, but an ordinance has not been developed. 

Voters rejected the second ballot measure that would have eliminated the police department from the city charter and replaced it with a public safety department with a public health approach to crime. 

Interim City Coordinator Heather Johnston said city officials will share regular updates throughout the process of implementing the amendments, and while the public safety amendment didn’t pass, work that has already begun in that vein will continue. She said this is a challenging time for city staff, but “We all care deeply about the city of Minneapolis. Serving our residents and our businesses is our top priority.”


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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.