The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s campaign today in a dispute that led to the reassignment of a Minneapolis election judge last week to keep her away from voters until a city investigation is completed.
The case is the latest in a bitter battle between the longtime legislator and her opponent Mohamud Noor, whose mobilization of Somali-American delegates led to Kahn’s failure to receive the DFL endorsement this spring. The primary will take place next month.
The campaign filed a petition with the court on July 7 claiming that election judge Fadumo Yusuf asked voters in Somali at City Hall – where hundreds of Somali people have been casting absentee ballots - whether they were supporting “our Somali brother” or “the old Jewish lady,” and seeking her removal. State law requires election judges to be neutral.
Last week, before the court could take any action, the city quietly shifted Yusuf’s duties at City Hall to processing absentee ballots, away from any direct contact with voters.
Attorneys for Minneapolis also filed court papers last week seeking to remove Yusuf’s name from the Kahn campaign’s complaint – which was also filed against City Clerk Casey Carl – and argued that the Supreme Court didn’t have jurisdiction to grant their request to remove an employee from election judge duties.
Today, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued an order denying the city’s motion and asserting that it had jurisdiction over the matter. No further action will be taken, she wrote, until the city notifies the court that it has assigned Yusuf back to election judge responsibilities requiring direct contact with voters – or unless further allegations are made.
“The allegations of wrongful conduct by an election judge raise serious, and sobering, concerns,” wrote Gildea, who did not make any judgment on whether Yusuf had violated her election duties.
While Gildea did not make any decision on whether Yusuf had violated her election duties, she wrote, “The allegations of wrongful conduct by an election judge raise serious, and sobering, concerns.”
In an email, Carl expressed agreement with the judge’s statement, and noted that the court also acknowledged there are disputes about the precise details of the allegations.
“It’s for that very reason the City retained an outside, neutral investigator to examine the facts of these claims,” he said.
Brian Rice, the attorney for Kahn, described the Supreme Court’s oversight of the matter as “huge.”
But Omar Jamal, a Somali activist representing Yusuf, said they are consulting with lawyers about filing a complaint against Rice “for creating all this nonsense.”
He said that Yusuf “hasn’t said anything close to what she’s being reported to have said. … What I see going on here is a desperate measure by Kahn’s campaign to disrupt and intimidate the community.”