Bridgeport ballot stuffing scandal heads to court
One week after a video surfaced showing a woman stuffing a Bridgeport absentee ballot box multiple times, the case shifted to a courtroom Monday. Mayoral candidate John Gomes is asking a judge to order a whole new Democratic primary.
“Civil rights were violated when we talk about the voters of Bridgeport,” Gomes said after the hearing. “We want clarity, and we want integrity back.”
“CASE LIKE NO OTHER”
During a hearing Monday afternoon, the city of Bridgeport said it will turn 2,112 hours of surveillance footage as early as Tuesday afternoon. The footage covers all four of the city’s ballot boxes over a four-week period.
“This is a case like no other in the history of the state of Connecticut, because of the videos,” Gomes’s attorney, Bill Bloss, told reporters.
A State Elections Enforcement Commission complaint alleges the woman in the video is Wanda Geter-Pataky – a longtime City Hall employee and campaign organizer for Mayor Joe Ganim. SEEC recently recommended criminal charges for Geter-Pataky and two other Ganim staffers, over their activities in the 2019 mayoral primary – which also led to lawsuit.
Geter-Pataky is currently on paid leave. She declined comment last week but has been subpoenaed to testify in Gomes’ lawsuit.
NOT JUST THE VIDEO
In addition to the now-infamous video, SEEC has launched multiple investigations into the primary.
According to one complaint, a voter on Morningside Drive claimed: "Ms. Geter promised her she can get her a Section 8 [housing] voucher if she votes for Ganim." Another complaint claims a voter on Palisade Avenue “told me his mailbox was broken and someone had stolen his [absentee ballot].” The state is also investigating ballot tampering allegations at seven other locations across the city.
Four of the complaints were filed by the Gomes campaign. Two were referrals from Bridgeport police, which is also investigating the video – as well as how it was leaked. The department is fighting a request from Gomes’ lawyers to turn over investigators’ files.
The scandal has led to calls for Ganim’s resignation. But on this weekend’s “Connecticut Power and Politics,” Ganim insisted he knew of no wrongdoing.
“I'm appalled by it. There's no place in my campaign,” he told host Eric Landskroner. “I have faith in the court. Bring it on. We're going to have another round, whether it's in a primary or in the general election.”
In court Monday, Ganim and Geter were no-shows, even though both were subpoenaed. Gomes' attorney said he will put Geter on the stand.
“She's under subpoena, so she doesn't have a choice about whether she's going to testify,” said Bloss. “She can do one of two things. She can either testify as to what happened and what her involvement was, or it’s always her option to take the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”
Judge Robert Clark gave attorneys an extra two weeks to review thousands of surveillance videos and absentee ballots.
“There's a lot of documents to be reviewed, but we need to also move forward as expeditiously as possible,” Clark told attorneys.
Even if Gomes wins the case, Bloss said it’s “unrealistic” that a new primary can happen before the November general election – potentially setting the city up for election chaos.
“The new primary can happen after the general election,” he said. “And then there would be another general election a month or two after that.”
For now, both candidates are on the November ballot. But since he won the primary, only Ganim is listed as the Democratic nominee. Gomes will appear as a third-party candidate.