New videos allegedly show more ballot stuffing in Bridgeport
Lawyers unveiled nearly 20 minutes of additional surveillance video on Friday, allegedly showing supporters of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim stuffing absentee ballot boxes.
But attorneys for the city insist the footage isn't cut-and-dry – and it's not enough to overturn last month's Democratic primary.
NEW BALLOT BOX FOOTAGE
Much of the footage allegedly features Wanda Geter-Pataky, a Ganim organizer and longtime city employee. In one clip, Geter appears to high-five someone just after a drop. The new clips are in addition to a widely seen video that surfaced days after the Sept. 12 primary. It appears to show Geter-Pataky stuffing seven stacks of papers into a ballot box outside the Margaret Morton Government Center.
Lawyers for Ganim's opponent, John Gomes, grilled her on the witness stand.
"Did you ever deposit an absentee ballot – a completed absentee ballot that was not yours – in a city drop box?" asked Gomes' attorney, Bill Bloss.
But more than 70 times, Geter-Pataky asserted her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. Bridgeport police and the State Elections Enforcement Commission are both investigating the videos. SEEC also recommended criminal charges against her and two other Ganim campaign staff for how they handled absentee ballots in 2019.
Geter-Pataky is now on administrative leave from the city.
Other new videos introduced Friday allegedly show City Council candidate Eneida Martinez making multiple ballot drops. She also pleaded the Fifth on the witness stand.
"THEIR VOTE DON'T COUNT"
Gomes is asking a judge to overturn the results and order a whole new primary. He said the videos prove the election was stolen.
"When I knock on those doors and people tell me their vote don't count, they exemplify that," he told reporters outside the courthouse. "It stains the political world. It stains Bridgeport. And quite frankly, it's very sad that we're in this situation today."
But as bad as the footage might look, lawyers for the city said it's not enough to toss out a whole primary.
"It involves, I believe, only nine people. So, this great conspiracy that we've all been hearing about isn't there," said John Kennelly, who represents Bridgeport's Democratic voter registrar. "That exhibit, in and of itself, is no reason to strip the voters of Bridgeport of their rights and to disenfranchise them."
City attorneys plan to introduce footage of their own.
A second video posted last week shows a Gomes supporter visiting the same ballot box four times, and the same car stopping at a box three different times. Gomes insisted that everyone in the video was casting ballots for close relatives, which is legal in Connecticut. But Ganim's campaign accused his rival of "hypocrisy."
SLOPPY ELECTION MANAGEMENT?
Gomes' legal team said their case rests on more than a handful of videos. They said the voting totals simply don't add up.
"The numbers of people that we see voting at the drop boxes, and the number of envelopes without a stamp and without a postmark, are not close," said Bloss.
Bloss has spent much of the hearing painting Bridgeport election staff as sloppy and uneducated about state election law. Earlier on Friday, absentee ballot moderator Maurice Nelson testified that most ballots should not have been counted in the Sept. 12 primary because they didn't contain Town Clerk Charles Clemons' signature.
Kennelly accused Bloss of "grasping at straws" with a minor technicality that did not impact the election results.
GANIM TO TESTIFY NEXT WEEK
Ganim has said he knew nothing about alleged ballot stuffing.
"I'm appalled by it," the mayor told News 12 Connecticut's "Power and Politics" on Sept. 22. "There's no place in my campaign."
Ganim will get to tell that to the judge next week, when he's expected to take the stand.
Testimony is expected to wrap up next week. But even if Judge William Clark orders a new primary, it could not happen before Nov. 7 – meaning voters would have to go back to the polls after the general election. Both men are on the November ballot, but only Ganim is listed as the Democratic candidate. Gomes is listed on a third-party line.