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City deploys sergeants-at-arms to polls for Kahn-Noor race

  • Blog Post by: Maya Rao
  • August 11, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Minneapolis is taking the unprecedented step of assigning sergeants-at-arms at the polls during tomorrow's primary election in the Minnesota House district where a contentious race between Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Mohamud Noor has divided the DFL and East African community.

The city is posting four such officers in polling places for voters from Cedar-Riverside, Seward, Prospect Park and the University area to ensure that they are not intimidated or interrupted within 100 feet of their polling station.

City Clerk Casey Carl said he believes Minneapolis is the first Minnesota city to take advantage of a statute allowing for sergeants-at arms on Election Day. He said the city has previously had election judges enforce the 100-feet rule while conducting their other duties.

This time, the polls will have people whose “only duty is to monitor that buffer zone … to give unfocused attention to that work,” said Carl.

Minneapolis hired the officers from a temp firm and trained them at City Hall today. They do not carry guns or share the duties of police officers.

“All voters deserve the right to be unimpeded, unhampered, free of intimidation or undue influence or harassment to enter and to exit the polling place,” said Carl.

The widely-watched campaign has featured allegations of violence, voter fraud and racism, and one caucus in Cedar-Riverside was rescheduled after erupting into chaos in February.

The city has employed a sergeant-at-arms since last Tuesday due to the increasing numbers of voters flooding City Hall to cast absentee ballots, with many campaign workers lingering on the sidewalk just outside the building.

Tomorrow, the officers' job will be to ask people if they are voting and point them to the right place. If not, the officers can say, “You have no business here, and I need you to leave.”

Carl said the city is talking about “strategically” using sergeants-at-arms in the general election in November for some locations.

© 2014 Star Tribune