The Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Labor party is looking into irregularities in the party endorsement process for Minneapolis City Council.
The Minneapolis DFL Executive Committee voted unanimously Monday night not to accept 358 out of 514 delegate signups for council candidate Victor Martinez in Ward 5 because a campaign volunteer signed them all up using the same IP address, and was unable to validate them with paper signup forms, saying they’d been thrown out.
Questions have arisen about other wards, too.
Victor Martinez, an Assembly of God pastor who opposes abortion rights and was endorsed by the Minneapolis police union, seemed like an unlikely choice for the heavily DFL Ward 5 in north Minneapolis. But he was just four votes shy of getting the endorsement two years ago, and this time around he signed up an unusually high number of delegates: 514.
The ward’s progressive City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison won the endorsement in 2017 with far fewer delegates, 143.
Martinez said in a statement that the precinct location for about 200 delegates was accidentally entered incorrectly into the DFL database, and now the executive committee is going to disenfranchise those people — mostly people of color, recent immigrants and low-income people — from the endorsing process.
Ellison said he saw trends in Martinez’s signups that weren’t seen anywhere else in the city. Told of the executive committee’s decision Monday night, Ellison said, “I don’t think anybody should get special treatment. I think everyone should have to abide by the rules. Everybody should be able to verify their data.”
The party saw “very similar” anomalies in Wards 5, 6 and 10, according to a DFL source with knowledge of the situation who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the media: “It seems like there was a strategy to exploit some of the weakness in the caucus process.”
Minneapolis DFL chair Briana Rose Lee, who is planning the caucuses and conventions for the 13-ward City Council election, said until a campaign brings a challenge to the committee, there are no plans to get involved with delegates in other wards. Each ward committee and credentials committee make their own decisions on how to run and when to make challenges. In Ward 5, however, there are no volunteers and a credentials committee doesn’t exist yet, so the executive committee was impaneled to take over and make a decision, Lee said.
A newcomer who announced a day before the deadline signed up more delegates than City Council Member Aisha Chughtai in Ward 10.
In Ward 6, Tiger Worku signed up the most delegates, while incumbent Jamal Osman finished third. Another candidate in the Ward 6 race, Kayseh Magan, a former investigator with the Attorney General’s Office, said he noticed over 180 delegates listed emails through an email service called Proton. All but two were delegates for Worku. Magan said he contacted some of the delegates, and none of them said they use that email provider.
Some of the caucuses were done digitally this year, others in person. So rather than go to a school to sign up, for example, in these wards people signed up on paper to be a delegate. Magan said many people didn’t sign the form; some people’s phone numbers were crossed out (he suspects to make it more difficult for other candidates to reach them); and some delegates’ names were misspelled. So he began contacting the delegates, and he said some told him they didn’t sign up to be a delegate for Worku.
On Monday, Magan took the Reformer to a senior apartment building where nearly two dozen Worku delegates live — even though a different address was listed on their delegate forms. Some of their names were misspelled on the signup forms and email addresses. Two said they didn’t sign any form and the rest couldn’t remember who they agreed to be a delegate for.
One resident, Gerald Lattery, said he remembers seeing Worku in the lobby of the building and said he’d consider voting for him but never agreed to be a delegate. In fact, he’s a staunch conservative Republican.
“I’ve never been associated with the Democratic Party,” Lattery told the Reformer.
At a delegate selection meeting on March 22 with the candidates, Magan raised the issue of the Proton email addresses, and Worku replied that Proton is an email service that’s “accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise use” it and said he was willing to provide notarized statements proving the delegates are legitimate.
Worku said in an interview Monday that he’s confident all his delegates will be ready for the Ward 6 convention on May 20.
“He has every right to challenge and we will abide by the process,” he said.
But most of the delegates at the senior apartment building couldn’t remember Worku’s name.
Candidates can contest the results, but there’s no automatic review by the DFL.
State DFL spokesman Brian Evans said the caucus and conventions process is run by local organizing units, and they generally resolve any disputes that arise. The state party may be called in to arbitrate, however.
“Since we may need to ultimately adjudicate disagreements, we don’t comment on any of those disagreements as they work their way through the process to preserve our impartiality,” Evans said.
Lee said the committee will meet with both campaigns to ask them to switch to an in-person convention and allow Martinez the opportunity to bring the people who wanted to be his delegates to the convention for a credentials challenge, allowing the credentials committee and convention as a whole vote to seat the additional delegates.
This is not the first time in recent years that voting irregularities have arisen in Minneapolis politics. A federal jury convicted Muse Mohamud Mohamed — a campaign volunteer and the brother-in-law of state Sen. Omar Fateh — of perjury in relation to testimony to a grand jury about his handling of ballots during Fateh’s 2020 primary victory over then-Sen. Jeff Hayden. The number of ballots in question were nowhere near enough to affect the outcome of the race.