A Connecticut judge has ordered a replay of the September 12 Democratic primary in Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, after obtaining video evidence of possible illegal ballot stuffing days before the original primary.
Surveillance footage shows several people putting stacks of ballots into ballot boxes at various locations in the city.
In his ruling, Supreme Court Justice William Clark said he had seen enough evidence of malfeasance to order a replay of the September 12 primary, in which incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim defeated challenger John Gomes by a narrow 251 votes out of 8,173 cast to vote.
The Gomes campaign later sued the city, demanding a new primary.
“The number of ballots so mishandled is such that the outcome of the primary is seriously called into question and the court is unable to determine the legitimate outcome of the primary,” Clark wrote in his ruling.
Bridgeport police video showing city employee Wanda Geter-Pataky placing absentee ballots into an election drop box outside the Margaret Morton Government Center where she worked
Video posted by John Gomes for Mayor shows Wanda Geter and other City of Bridgeport employees allegedly putting stacks of absentee ballots into ballot boxes
Supreme Court Justice William Clark said he had seen enough evidence of malfeasance to order a rerun of the September 12 primary.
The judge cited statistics showing abnormally large numbers of absentee ballots being cast in certain precincts. Video evidence shows several people placing stacks of ballots in mailboxes, in violation of state law.
Under Connecticut law, voters who use a collection box must return their completed ballots themselves, or designate certain family members, police, local election officials or a caregiver to do so for them.
“The videos are shocking to the court and should be shocking to all parties,” Clark wrote.
Judge Clark ruled that just two women had committed or were directly involved in 15 incidents involving mailboxes being filled with ballots.
Gomes claims that person is Wanda Geter-Pataky, a Ganim supporter and vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.
Several surveillance videos show people placing apparent absentee ballots into an open-air ballot box several days before the original primary.
Video posted by John Gomes for mayor shows Bridgeport city employee Wanda Geter-Pataky walking into the Margaret Morton Government Center where she worked
Surveillance cameras saw people dropping off multiple ballots at once – instead of just one
In court, Geter-Pataky exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions.
A former city council member and current candidate also declined to answer questions about whether she appears in other videos.
Lawyers for city officials had argued in a joint legal brief that the security camera footage does not prove anything illegal took place. They said “not a single voter” testified that their ballot had been mishandled.
So far, the Bridgeport scandal has not yielded any accusations that people tampered with ballots or created fake votes.
Instead, it involves an activity known as “ballot harvesting,” in which campaign workers or volunteers visit potential voters, persuade them to fill out absentee ballots, and then collect those ballots and place them in mailboxes or mail them.
This man was also seen dropping multiple ballots into an election ballot box
Those types of fundraisers are banned in Connecticut, but are allowed in some other states.
Ganim is seeking an eighth term as mayor. He previously served from 1991 to 2003 before spending seven years in federal prison on corruption and racketeering charges stemming from his time in office. Voters gave him a job again in 2015 and 2019.
Gomes served in Ganim’s second government as the city’s acting chief administrator until he was demoted in 2016 and later as assistant chief administrator until his resignation in July 2022.
Gomes has publicly suggested his ouster was in retaliation for being rumored to be a possible mayoral hopeful.
Ganim previously faced a major challenge during his 2019 re-election bid, when he narrowly defeated Sen. Marilyn Moore by 270 votes. That result was also challenged in court, but a judge ultimately upheld the victory.
“This is a victory for the people of Bridgeport,” said Gomes, the city’s former chief executive. “Our campaign has always believed that the integrity of our democratic process must be upheld and Supreme Court Justice William Clark agreed.”
Ganim urged his supporters to show up on election day.
Ballot drop boxes have been a prime target for those pushing conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential race was rigged and that the election results cannot be trusted
Bridgeport City Employee Wanda Geter-Pataky works with her attorney to know what questions to answer to avoid incriminating herself during her testimony in Bridgeport
Geter-Pataky was shown video clips of her placing large quantities of absentee ballots into election drop boxes
“Let’s send a strong signal that we want to keep progress going in Bridgeport,” he said.
Both candidates have also said they were upset by the videos in which both men acknowledged that some of their supporters had submitted multiple ballots.
“There are videos of the irregularities on both sides,” Ganim said. ‘That is not acceptable. We all want everyone’s voice to count. We all want fair elections.’
Ganim, who was convicted of corruption during an initial stint as mayor but was given his old job back in an election after his release from prison, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of misconduct related to ballots. He has also accused Gomes’ campaign staff of violating voting rules.
Although the date for the new primaries has not yet been set, next Tuesday’s general election will go ahead as planned, with all four candidates running.
Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Joe Ganim is seeking an eighth term as mayor. He previously served from 1991 to 2003 before spending seven years in federal prison for corruption and racketeering
Democrat mayoral candidate John Gomes’ campaign later sued the city, demanding a new mayoral primary
The incumbent Ganim will be a candidate, as will Gomes, who ran as an independent candidate after losing the primaries. Republican David Herz; and independent Lamond Daniels.
A winner will not be declared until the legal issues are resolved.
State Republicans have pounced on the Bridgeport ballot case as evidence that Connecticut needs to enact election reforms, especially regarding absentee ballots.
“These videos confirm our fears about how absentee ballots can be misused. Now the court has spoken,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said in a statement. “What we need now is trust, faith and confidence in our electoral system.”
News of the Bridgeport videos has spread nationally on right-wing social media platforms and on far-right media outlets, linking the controversy to former President Donald Trump’s false stolen election claims.