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CT appoints two monitors for new Bridgeport primary election

A city employee carries absentee ballots from the ballot box at Margaret E. Morton Government Center in Bridgeport on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
Shahrzad Rasekh
/
CT Mirror
A city employee carries absentee ballots from the ballot box at Margaret E. Morton Government Center in Bridgeport on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.

The state is assigning two election monitors to oversee the shortened absentee ballot application process prior to a court-ordered second Democratic primary between Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes next month.

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas has appointed Peggy Reeves, who also served as monitor for the November general election, and Waterbury’s Republican Registrar of Voters Tim DeCarlo as election monitors for the new primary, which is set for Jan. 23.

Having two monitors is meant to ensure that someone is present every day in the town clerk’s office at City Hall in the weeks before the new primary when campaign workers sign out absentee ballot applications and those applications get returned and ballots sent out.

“Peggy and Tim each have a deep knowledge of Connecticut elections law and procedures, which is key for this role,” Thomas said Wednesday in a press release.

“By sharing the election monitor role, we are mirroring Connecticut’s tradition of party parity while also building in redundancy to provide a constant presence in Bridgeport despite any life emergencies or illness. I’m grateful to both of them for their service to our state and the Bridgeport community,” she said.

Thomas also announced her office would be providing videos to educate the public about the absentee ballot process.

Ganim said Wednesday he welcomes the extra monitoring of the upcoming primary.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Secretary of the State to assist in providing oversight and educating voters for the upcoming election on January 23,” Ganim said in a statement. “We are circulating the videos to educate campaign volunteers and members of the public about the appropriate process for absentee ballots to ensure that the thousands of voters in Bridgeport are eligible to cast their ballot for the January 23rd Special Election and future elections.”

Gomes campaign could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ganim defeated Gomes by 251 votes in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, but Gomes filed the lawsuit seeking to overturn those results after a video surfaced that appeared to show Democratic Town Committee vice chairwoman Wanda Geter-Pataky placing multiple absentee ballots into one of the four absentee ballot drop boxes in the city.

After a five-day court hearing just prior to the November general election, Judge William Clark ordered the new primary after determining that people affiliated with Ganim’s campaign, including a city council candidate, Eneida Martinez, mishandled ballots.

“The counting of any ballots that were mishandled in violation of state law and placed into drop boxes by Ms. Geter-Pataky, Ms. Martinez, and others, was a mistake in the vote count,” Clark wrote. “Given the volume of votes at issue, the miscounting of those statutorily invalid votes leaves this court unable to determine the result of the primary.”

Clark also ordered a truncated absentee ballot time period for the second primary of only a few weeks instead of months.

Ganim, who had defeated Gomes in the primary due to a significant advantage in absentee ballot votes, also won the November general election with the help of absentee ballots.

Clark ordered that municipal officials must make absentee ballot applications available at 9 a.m. on Dec. 29 and have absentee ballots available to be mailed by Jan. 2.

That will give residents less than a month to submit an application to vote by absentee. For the September primary, members of the campaigns began collecting absentee ballot applications in the spring.

The Connecticut Mirror earlier this month published aninvestigation into how the battle for absentee ballots took place and how Ganim’s supporters collected and delivered thousands of absentee ballot applications.

The investigation revealed that Geter-Pataky spent four months traversing parts of Bridgeport, helping voters fill out at least 537 absentee ballot applications ahead of the summer primary, which was decided by 251 votes.

Other steps Thomas announced that will be taken for this primary include:

  • Providing training on absentee ballot laws and procedures for newly elected Town Clerk Charlie Stallworth.
  • Ensuring awareness of absentee ballot procedures by the Bridgeport police department for when they serve as designees for absentee ballot applications pursuant to state law.
  • Accompanying the town clerk or designee on all pick ups from drop boxes and the registrars of voters when “undertaking supervised absentee ballots.”
  • Ensuring the absentee ballot moderator is familiar with and adheres strictly to the procedures for “receiving, handling, counting and preserving absentee ballots.”
  • Ensuring the head moderator has “refresher training” before election night.
  • Checking absentee ballot applications “for atypical patterns and reporting when warranted.”
  • And ensuring drop boxes are all locked at 8 p.m., on Election Day in accordance with the law.
Launched in 2010, The Connecticut Mirror specializes in in-depth news and reporting on public policy, government and politics. CT Mirror is nonprofit, non-partisan, and digital only.