‘Black cloud over Bridgeport.’ Ganim opponent says video proves ballot tampering
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s opponent is asking for a new Democratic primary, after releasing leaked security camera video that appears to show a woman stuffing an absentee ballot box – a violation of state election law.
“I am asking for a new primary,” Ganim’s challenger, John Gomes, said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “Right now, there’s a black cloud over Bridgeport.”
Gomes said he plans to file a lawsuit on Tuesday, asking a judge to decertify the election results and order a new primary.
The edited video shows a woman, and later a man she’s observing, stuffing a ballot collection box at least seven times in front of the Margaret Morton Government Center. It is time stamped between 5:41 a.m. and 7:18 a.m. on Sept. 5, one week before the primary.
Gomes’ campaign claims the woman in the video is a longtime City Hall employee and Ganim volunteer. News 12 Connecticut cannot independently verify her identity. The woman declined comment on Monday.
Bridgeport Police said they are investigating the video – and how it got leaked.
“I want to state unequivocally that I do not condone, in any way, actions taken by anyone including any campaign, city, or elected official, which undermines the integrity of either the electoral process or city property,” Ganim said in a statement. “The Bridgeport Police Department is actively investigating all these matters, and my administration will continue to update the public as we are able to obtain more information.”
Gomes defended posting the video online before the investigation is finished, and asked Connecticut State Police to take over the case.
“The chief of police is appointed by the mayor. The internal affairs of investigation reports to the mayor,” he said. “I will not discuss the source or where [the video] came from.”
A surge of absentee votes propelled Ganim to a 251-vote victory, according to results from the Connecticut Secretary of the State.
Four years ago, Ganim’s narrow win was also challenged.
After a five-week trial, Judge Barry Stevens ruled that ballot violations occurred, but they were not enough to overcome the mayor’s margin of victory over challenger Marilyn Moore.
“The plaintiffs were successful in identifying very serious election law violations, but the heat of this evidence was not hot enough to vacate the entire primary,” Stevens ruled in October 2019.
State regulators spent four years investigating the case. Recently, the State Elections Enforcement Commission recommended criminal charges for the woman allegedly shown in the video.
This year, Gomes’ campaign said it has filed more than 20 complaints with SEEC, which meets on Wednesday.
“This person said, ‘This person picked up my ballot. Oh I give this person my ballot. I have done this for years. Oh, she always comes in this building and grabs all my ballots,’” said Gomes’ campaign manager, Christine Bartlett-Josie.
“THEY WERE DISTURBING”
Reaction was swift from both political parties on Monday.
“I saw those videos. They were disturbing,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “That said, don't jump to conclusions. I say that every time. But I really want to thoroughly investigate this.”
Republicans called for state lawmakers to suspend all absentee ballot drop boxes during next week’s special legislative session.
“What’s alleged to have happened in Bridgeport ahead of the mayoral primary can’t be ignored – it’s right in the Democrat Party’s lap, and it poses a direct threat to the public’s fragile confidence in our state’s voting process,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House GOP leader.
But the state’s top elections official pushed back Monday, insisting the system is safe overall.
“It's about a few bad actors and an under-educated electorate [that doesn’t know its rights],” Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas told reporters. “Low turnout allows bad actors to have an outsized influence.”
Thomas noted that she has no authority to order a new primary election.
“Only a judge can decertify or otherwise overturn an election,” she said.