A Connecticut judge has ordered a redo of the September 12 Democratic primary in Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, after obtaining video evidence of possible illegal ballot box stuffing days before the original primary.
Surveillance video shows several people stuffing stacks of ballot papers into ballot drop boxes at several locations across the city.
In his ruling, Superior Court Judge William Clark said he had seen enough evidence of malfeasance to order a rerun of a September 12 primary in which incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim defeated challenger John Gomes by a narrow 251 votes out of 8,173 cast.
The Gomes campaign later sued the city, demanding a new primary.
‘The volume of ballots so mishandled is such that it calls the result of the primary election into serious doubt and leaves the court unable to determine the legitimate result 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 drop boxes
Superior Court Judge William Clark said he had seen enough evidence of malfeasance to order a rerun of a September 12 primary
The judge cited statistics showing that abnormally large numbers of absentee ballots were cast in certain voting districts and video evidence shows multiple people shoving stacks of ballots into drop boxes, in violation of state law.
Under Connecticut law, voters using a collection box must drop off their completed ballots themselves, or designate certain family members, police, local election officials or a caregiver to do it for them.
‘The videos are shocking to the court and should be shocking to all the parties,’ Clark wrote.
Judge Clark ruled that just two women made or were directly involved in 15 incidents of drop boxes being stuffed with ballots.
Gomes contends that person is Wanda Geter-Pataky, a Ganim supporter and vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.
Several surveillance videos show a people stuffing what appeared to be absentee ballots into an outdoor ballot box 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 cams saw people depositing multiple ballot papers at once – rather than just one
In court, Geter-Pataky exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined 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 doesn’t prove anything illegal took place. They said ‘not one voter’ testified about their ballot being mishandled.
So far, the Bridgeport scandal hasn’t involved any allegations that people doctored ballots or created fake votes.
Instead, they involve an activity known as ‘ballot harvesting,’ where campaign workers or volunteers visit potential voters, persuade them to fill out absentee ballots, and then collect those ballots and put them in drop boxes or send them in via the mail.
This man was also seen depositing multiple ballots into an election ballot box
That kind of collection effort is banned in Connecticut, but it is 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 for corruption and extortion charges stemming from his time in office. Voters returned him to the job in 2015 and 2019.
Gomes served in Ganim’s second administration as the city’s acting chief administrative officer until he was demoted in 2016 and later as an assistant chief administrative officer until his termination in July 2022.
Gomes has suggested publicly that his ouster was in retaliation for being rumored as a possible mayoral hopeful.
Ganim previously faced a primary challenge in his reelection bid in 2019, when he narrowly defeated state Senator Marilyn Moore by 270 votes. That result was also challenged in the courts, but a judge ultimately upheld the victory.
‘This is a victory for the people of Bridgeport,’ said Gomes, the city’s former chief administrative officer. ‘Our campaign always believed that the integrity of our democratic process must be upheld and Superior Court Judge William Clark agreed.’
Ganim urged his supporters to turn out on Election Day.
Ballot drop boxes have been a prime target for those pushing conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential race was rigged and election results can’t be trusted
Bridgeport city employee Wanda Geter-Pataky, center, works with her lawyer, to know which questions to answer so as not to incriminate herself during her testimony in Bridgeport
Geter-Pataky was shown video clips of herself placing quantities of absentee ballots into election drop boxes
‘Let’s send a powerful message that we want to keep the progress going in Bridgeport,’ he said.
Both candidates have also said they how they were dismayed by the videos with both men acknowledging some of their supporters submitted multiple ballots.
‘On both sides, there is video of the irregularities,’Ganim said. ‘That’s not acceptable. We all want everyone’s vote to count. We all want fair elections.’
Ganim, who was convicted of corruption during a first stint as mayor but won his old job back in an election after his release from prison, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of wrongdoing related to ballots. He has also accused Gomes campaign workers of breaking voting rules.
Although the date for the new primary has not yet been set, the general election this Tuesday will proceed as planned with four candidates all 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 extortion
Democrat mayoral candidate John Gomes’ campaign later sued the city, demanding a new mayoral primary
The incumbent Ganim will run, as will Gomes, who filed to run as an independent after losing the primary. Republican David Herz; and independent Lamond Daniels.
A winner will not be declared until the legal challenges have been resolved.
State Republicans have pounced on the Bridgeport ballot case as proof Connecticut needs to pass election reforms, especially affecting absentee ballots.
‘These videos confirm our fears about how absentee ballots can be misused. Now the court has spoken,’ state 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 through right-wing social media platforms and on far-right media, connecting the controversy to former President Donald Trump’s false stolen election claims.