Bridgeport ballot case wraps up. What's next could be election chaos
Bridgeport's ballot stuffing lawsuit wrapped up on Thursday. Now, a judge must decide whether to toss out last month's mayoral primary – a move that could send the city into electoral chaos.
"SERIOUSLY IN DOUBT?"
After five days of intense testimony, Judge William Clark must now decide if 20 minutes of surveillance footage shows Mayor Joe Ganim's campaign volunteers stuffing drop boxes with absentee ballots.
And if they did, was it enough to toss out a whole primary?
"Is the result of the primary seriously in doubt? That's the question," said Bill Bloss, an attorney for Ganim's opponent, John Gomes.
Bloss said the numbers prove his case. He argued that 1,255 ballots were left in drop boxes, but surveillance video only shows 420 people dropping them off. That's a difference of 835 ballots – well above Ganim's 251-vote margin of victory.
Lawyers for the city didn't call a single witness. They said Gomes didn't prove his case.
"Video clips were played. For me, who watched all those video clips, the only thing they prove is that it rained a lot during the primary," said John Kennelly, who represents Bridgeport's Democratic voter registrar. "Not one voter was placed on that stand to say that there was an irregularity how the votes were cast and how they were tallied."
The woman seen in most of the videos testified last Friday, but Wanda Geter-Pataky refused to answer most questions. She asserted her 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination dozens of times. The State Elections Enforcement Commission recently recommended criminal charges for Geter-Pataky and two other Ganim supporters for their roles in the 2019 election.
Ganim also took the stand on Tuesday, insisting that he didn't know about any wrongdoing. "There's no way that anyone could know – particularly at any particular time, unless they want to or are a party to it – what somebody else may or may not be doing," Ganim told reporters after his testimony.
Instead of closing arguments, Clark asked both sides to submit written briefs and replies by Oct. 27. He is expected to issue a ruling by early November.
If Clark orders a new primary, things could get very confusing.
No matter what, Bridgeport will hold a general election on Nov. 7. The judge does not have the authority to delay it.
Both candidates are on the November ballot, but only Ganim is listed as a Democrat. Gomes will appear on the Independent Party line.
From there, two possible scenarios emerge:
- If Ganim wins, the election would be essentially meaningless. Democrats would have to hold a new primary, then a second general election.
- If Gomes wins, it could be a different story. His attorney believes Gomes would be elected mayor on Election Night, with no need for any do-overs.
"If there was a new primary ordered, and John Gomes wins on the Independent Party line in November, in my view, that would end the case," said Bloss. "Because … he would already receive the relief that had asked for."
But that's far from certain. Such a scenario has never happened in Connecticut before, so Ganim and city election officials could demand a new primary go forward anyway.
Confused yet? There's more.
Beyond the election, SEEC and Bridgeport Police are still looking into possible criminal charges related to the ballot box videos, as well as how they were leaked.