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Tense Minneapolis House race to bring extra security at polling places

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Elections officials in Minneapolis are planning unprecedented security precautions for Tuesday's primary at several polling places in a Minneapolis House district,where the race between two DFL candidates has become quite contentious, MPR News reports.

The city is posting sergeants-at-arms at four polling places – Cedar-Riverside, Seward, Prospect Park and the University area – to maintain order and make sure voters are not intimidated or interrupted while they cast their ballots.

Longtime state Rep. Phyllis Kahn is facing a strong primary challenge from Mohamud Noor, a Somali who is a member of the Minneapolis School Board. The House district has a significant Somali population, and the race has shaken up traditional DFL politics and divided the East African community, according to MPR News.

Some Somalis support Noor, who would become the first Somali-American elected to the state Legislature. But others, including City Council Member Abdi Warsame, support Kahn's re-election.

The sergeants-at-arms will enforce election laws that require a 100-foot buffer zone around each polling place, where campaigning or attempting to influence voters is not allowed.

In previous years, election judges have enforced the 100-foot rule while they perform their other duties. But Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl said the sergeants-at-arms will be able to focus on that one task on Tuesday, the Star Tribune reports. They will not carry weapons.

Carl describes the Kahn-Noor campaign as "increasingly tense," according to MPR News. He said a sergeant-at-arms has been on duty at City Hall since last Tuesday, at the on-site early voting polls, after his office received complaints about campaign workers and others gathering just outside the building.

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," according to MPR.

The campaign between Kahn and Noor has been heated at times, with each camp accusing the other of voter fraud and intimidation. A fight even broke out at a DFL precinct caucus in February.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Abdimalik Askar, also a Somali-American, in the November 4 general election.

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