DFL Incumbents Suddenly Raise Red Flag About Online Voting After Losing Endorsement

Now they tell us. Three incumbent DFL state legislators who each recently lost the nod for their party’s endorsement suddenly sound more like conservative critics when it comes to allowing online voting for elections. In Minneapolis, two longtime liberal legislators have left open the option of challenging the outcome of the endorsement process due to concerns over its integrity in the wake of virtual procedures put in place due to to the coronavirus, according to the Star Tribune.

Sen. Jeff Hayden and Rep. Raymond Dehn, both Democrats from Minneapolis, criticized how online votes were conducted after the two fell short against challengers representing a new generation of urban Democrats.

Hayden, the Senate’s assistant minority leader, lost to Omar Fateh, the son of Somali immigrants. Dehn, in his fourth term, lost to Esther Agbaje, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants.

On Thursday, Agbaje captured the endorsement after three rounds of voting, earning 132 of 217 votes cast. Dehn received 84 in the decisive round. Fateh won the endorsement on the first try, getting 420 of the 580 votes. Hayden picked up 153.

Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. After all, Dehn was endorsed by none other than Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN. And Dehn, chair of the House Elections Subcommittee, has been a key proponent of allowing voting-by-mail in the the 2020 general election due to concerns over Covid-19.

Dehn, elected in 2012, on Friday questioned how delegate alternatives received “automatic upgrades” to become delegates and cast votes during the online process. Hayden, first elected to the House in 2008, said his campaign could not verify many delegates as living in his district. He said the campaign raised the issue with a credentials committee that declined to remove the delegates.

“I just think it is worth it to at least examine those delegates to make sure that they were legitimate delegates,” Hayden said. “And if not, then I think the folks I’ve been representing for the last 12 years need to get a chance to weigh in a little broader.”

Then there’s State Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, who lost by lopsided margin to challenger  Jen McEwen. But that hasn’t stopped Simonson from also finding fault with the new virtual selection process, rather than acknowledge other issues may have played a part.

Simonson, a former firefighter and assistant fire chief in Duluth, was elected to the state Senate in 2016 after serving two terms in the House. He recently left his job as CEO of Lake Superior Zoo and joined Lake Superior College as an executive director of continuing education and customized training. The move attracted scrutiny and conflict-of-interest questions after it was revealed that Simonson introduced legislation seeking nearly $1 million in public infrastructure bonds on the school’s behalf while he was applying for the job.

Besides challenging the results and process, all three losing legislators say they may well run against the endorsed candidates in the DFL  primary on August 11. Meantime, it will be  interesting to see whether their personal experience with virtual voting affects their support for other avenues to undermine the integrity of the 2020 statewide election.