Mpls. orders primary day security for 'tense' Kahn-Noor campaign

People casting early absentee ballots and Minneapolis City Hall, June 27, 2014.
Brandt Williams/MPR News, file

Minneapolis will take unprecedented security precautions for Tuesday's primary to help keep the peace in a heated state House race.

City election officials have assigned sergeants-at-arms to four precincts in the city's Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where long-serving DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn faces a challenge from Minneapolis School Board Member Mohamud Noor.

Minneapolis officials believe this is the first time sergeants-at-arms have been used in any city in any election in the state.

Their job will be to monitor and maintain order in the area around the polling places "so that voters can come and go and cast their votes without intimidation or any undue influence on that process," said city clerk Casey Carl, who called the Kahn-Noor campaign "increasingly tense."

Minneapolis posted a sergeant-at-arms at City Hall starting last Tuesday after it received complaints about people congregating near the city's in-person absentee voting site.

State law prohibits lingering at or near a polling place and allows sergeants-at-arms "to arrest or remove from the polling place any individual who, despite a warning to desist, engages in disorderly conduct."

The Minneapolis sergeants-at-arms will not carry weapons.

The four precincts are all located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, the epicenter of the city's Somali-American community.

The Kahn-Noor race has divided the city's Somali population. Some want to see Noor become the first Somali-American elected to the state Legislature. Others, including City Council Member Abdi Warsame, support Kahn.

The contest has been acrimonious, including accusations of voter fraud, intimidation and dirty tricks. A fight even broke out at a DFL precinct caucus early this year.

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