Three longtime DFLers are criticizing the Minneapolis virtual endorsement process this year, calling the party's effort at digital democracy "flawed, discriminatory and invalid."

Activist Ken Vreeland and two former Minneapolis City Council members Tony Scallon and Lisa McDonald have filed a complaint with the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, arguing that the process has disenfranchised thousands of voters, particularly seniors, people of color, immigrants and people with disabilities.

The group has also hired an attorney and is demanding that leaders of the DFL Party indefinitely suspend this year's candidate endorsement process, which began this week.

"We are really upset," Scallon said. "The system is now flawed and [the Minneapolis DFL leaders] have a real crisis coming when more people learn about what the problem is."

Scallon, a resident of the Second Ward, said the process is not secure and that anybody with a random number can vote to become a delegate, noting that many people, including longtime DFLers who had registered legitimately, have been shut out of the process. He said the party's request for voters' ages amounts to discrimination.

"They thought they were done when they got done registering," Scallon said. "We've never had a required verification before and so a lot of people have been denied and they did not get to be delegates. It's just really a mess."

Minneapolis DFL Chairman Devin Hogan called the allegations "absolute garbage" and said Scallon and McDonald are "furious that they're no longer relevant" and that he has considered sending Vreeland "a cease and desist for libeling me over the years."

"They are striving to be relevant, and have nothing to offer except for lies," Hogan said. "They have nothing better to do than insult the people of Minneapolis that want to begin this process."

Scallon, McDonald and Vreeland are not alone in criticizing the party's process this year. Some voters have said they were not made aware of the candidate forums happening this weekend and were confused about how to cast their votes online.

Earlier this year, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and nearly two dozen other candidates also raised concerns about the online format and said they feared the process won't be accessible to many residents and would worsen tensions in an already divided city.

DFL leaders launched a virtual endorsement process due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hogan said this year's caucus has been the most attended ever, except in 2016 when a large turnout driven largely by the presidential race forced the Minnesota Secretary of State to switch caucuses to a primary. Hogan said they have sent out 22,000 postcards in four weeks and tens of thousands of e-mails over the last six weeks.

The party mailed everyone who registered a postcard with a code and have provided endorsement information in four languages — Hmong, Somali, Spanish and English, said Hogan. He said voters without access to a computer have been calling or texting in their native language. At least 10 seniors over the age of 90 have participated this year, he said.

"People are very excited to participate," Hogan said. "This is the first time ever, ever the caucus has been in four languages. So I don't want to hear that it's disenfranchising."

Minneapolis DFL leaders have been planning this year's virtual format since October, Hogan said. Registration opened this year from April 1 through the end of that month for those who wanted to vote for delegates or run as one.

All 60 campaigns that participated were invited to help shape the process and many of them took the call, he said.

Hogan said the senior caucus — which he said Scallon, McDonald and Vreeland are members of — has had representatives present at every meeting but never raised any concerns until now.

The party will have 13 live events this weekend for delegates and interested people to meet candidates, who will give speeches. The event will livestream on the Minneapolis DFL's Facebook and YouTube pages.

"The balloting process is the exact same balloting process that the state party used in 2020," Hogan said. "So this is not new."

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a phone interview Friday that they have "little to no involvement in what's happening in Minneapolis" and that local units are responsible for putting together their endorsing process and conventions as long it complies with rules and procedures at the state level.

"If there's a challenge to any of those rules or procedures or processes that the Minneapolis DFL put forward, the Minneapolis DFL has to adjudicate those," Martin said.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203