Judge hears alleged Bridgeport absentee ballot stuffing case
Testimony in a case involving alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bridgeport’s Sept. 12 Democratic primary for mayor is expected to begin in about two weeks, according to Bridgeport Superior Court Judge William Clark, who is hearing the case.
There’s a need for the case to be expedited because there’s a great public interest in the integrity of elections, Clark said, during the first hearing in the case on Monday.
Incumbent Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim won the city’s Democratic primary based on mail-in ballots for the second time in four years.
“We would anticipate that we are tracking towards evidence beginning approximately two weeks from today,” Clark said.
He also ordered Bridgeport Police to make available more than 2,000 hours of city surveillance video to enable challenger John Gomes’ lawyer prepare for the case.
“My hope is that at least the documentary evidence and the video evidence can be produced as efficiently as possible,” he said.
Gomes filed the lawsuit after surveillance video became public showing a woman repeatedly putting items in a mail-in ballot box at Bridgeport City Hall annex a few days before the primary.
“On election day we won with 470 votes and then when the absentee ballot results came in we were at a deficit of 251 votes. And now in light with all the evidence that has been presented. We would definitely like a new primary,” Gomes said outside the courthouse after the hearing.
“One hundred and sixty eight towns in the state of Connecticut don’t have a problem with absentee ballot issues, Bridgeport does,” said Gomes’ attorney Bill Bloss.
He has subpoenaed Wanda Geter-Pataky, a city employee and former Ganim campaign worker who the Gomes campaign accuses of being the woman in the video.
“We want to get information about what she did both with those ballots but also with other absentee ballot applications and other absentee ballots. So she’s a crucial witness,” Bloss said.
Gomes seeks to have the court declare a rerun of the primary, even if the court decision comes after the November general election.
“The Connecticut Supreme Court decided four years ago that even if the general election happens and the primary hasn’t been settled, the judge here, Judge Clark, can order a new primary. And the new primary can happen after the general election and then there would be another general election a month or two after that,” Bloss said.
That state Supreme Court decision involved Ganim’s mail-in ballot victory in the city’s Democratic Party primary four years ago. State Senator Marilyn Moore lost to Ganim in that race. The video evidence will make a big difference this time, she said.
“Someone stuffing a ballot box I think carries more weight than a story of what someone thought happened to them," Moore said. "Because there's a point where you see it happen so many times, people will tell you 'oh that's not so, you’re imagining,' but seeing that’s it."
In the meantime, Geter-Pataky is one of three Ganim campaign workers the Connecticut State Election Enforcement Commission has recommended be charged with criminal violations in connection with the alleged misuse of absentee ballots in the city’s 2019 mayoral election.
The city’s attorneys said they will cooperate with the request for video evidence but have challenged the need for some of the other documents.
Ganim has placed Geter-Pataky on paid administrative leave pending investigation and distanced himself from any attempt to collect absentee ballots in the city.