Calling the wording "vague and ambiguous to the point of misleading voters," a Hennepin County judge wisely ruled against ballot language on a measure intended to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety.

Judge Jamie Anderson went on to find the language "erroneous" and granted a temporary restraining order that would prevent the county auditor from placing it on the November ballot. That prompted the City Council to approve new language in an emergency session.

Those are good and necessary decisions that come down on the side of Minneapolis voters, who — whatever their ultimate decision may be — are entitled to a full and vetted explanation of what the proposal would or would not change.

Originally, the proposed amendment was to have been accompanied by an explanatory note written by the city attorney. But an earlier lawsuit by supporters resulted in that note getting stripped out. The City Council opted not to replace it — a decision that weighed against them in court.

Anderson said the result was language that "is insufficient to identify the amendment clearly" and "does not assist the voters in easily and accurately identifying what is being voted on."

That was a clear message to the City Council that it needed to make crystal clear to Minneapolis voters in neutral, fact-based language, what they will be voting on and what the consequences would be.

Former Minneapolis Council Member Don Samuels and his wife Sondra Samuels, head of the Northside Achievement Zone, along with city resident Bruce Dachis, brought the lawsuit to stop the current language. The court, Don Samuels told an editorial writer, "has ruled in favor of the people of this city and their right to know. It proves that the law is on the side of clarity. That's all we're asking: Make clear to people what they are voting on."

Too much is at stake here to do less. The council met in emergency session Tuesday afternoon, quickly adopting a slightly revised version of the ballot question, along with another try at an explanatory note. They are now racing the clock to see if the new version will meet the court test, satisfy pro- and anti-charter change forces, and fend off further legal action that would jeopardize their ability to get the question on the ballot.

Supporters of the charter change recently have been insisting that the Police Department could, in fact, continue to exist, that officers would be employed, that Police Chief Medaria Arradondo could stay on. The union contract would remain in force. If true, that seems a bit at odds with what they also claim is the transformative nature of the amendment.

It also bumps up against the language of the proposed amendment itself. The new version, approved 12-1 by the council on Tuesday, now reads in part, "Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety" with specific functions "to be determined by the Mayor and City Council." In other words, plan to come later, devised by 14 bosses.

The new ballot language continues to say that licensed peace officers could be employed "if necessary" — a curious word choice that would seem to serve little purpose other than to preserve the option of not having police. The note also states that the minimum funding requirement for police would be eliminated.

There is merit in the argument by Leili Fatehi, of All of Mpls, a group opposing passage, that a plan to revamp public safety should have come first. "We need significant, structural reform," she said in a statement Tuesday. "The mayor and City Council should develop a real, comprehensive plan for how to reform the Minneapolis Police Department," that would include changes to police training, recruitment, accountability, discipline, better integration of mental health and other experts.

Then, "If that comprehensive plan requires a charter change, then voters should have an opportunity to vote knowing what the plan is."

What a concept.