State police: Tear in window screen led to ballot building scare

Police say detectives were requested by the Bridgeport state’s attorney to investigate a reported suspicious incident at a building located on Mona Terrace.

John Craven

Nov 10, 2023, 1:09 PM

Updated 256 days ago


Police surrounded a facility storing thousands of ballots in Fairfield Thursday night over reports of a possible break-in.
The scare raised alarm bells.
Turns out it was just a torn window screen.
It all happened at a storage building behind the Bigelow Senior Center, where town employees had just dropped off locked voting machines containing ballots from this week’s election.
Republican voter registrar Cathy Politi noticed a broken window screen and notified the town attorney, according to First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick. Since the facility housed election materials, Fairfield police immediately called in prosecutors and state investigators.
“The reason for the state police to take over the investigation was to maintain the integrity of the democratic process,” said Lt. Ed Nook, with Fairfield Police. “We take it very seriously.”
After several hours, authorities determined there was no break-in – and no ballots were compromised.
“After conducting a thorough on-scene investigation, it was determined that there were no compromised entry points into the building, and that the damage to the window screen did not appear to be the result of criminal activity,” Connecticut State Police said in a statement.
All ballot bags were still sealed inside locked voting machines, according to Fairfield State’s Attorney Joseph Corradino.
“Although this is still technically a pending investigation, there is no indication that a burglary of the facility was committed nor is there any reason to believe that the ballots were compromised,” he said in a statement.
The incident came just days before a closely watched recount for Fairfield first selectman. Democrat Bill Gerber edged out Kupchick, the Republican incumbent, by just 42 votes.
“There was no tampering. There was no break-in,” Gerber said on Friday. “The integrity of the election is sound.”
Kupchick agreed, saying she is “confident in the integrity of Tuesday's recount.”
“I am grateful the state police were able to work quickly to alleviate any concerns over the security of our ballots,” Kupchick said in a statement.
Tuesday’s recount will go on as scheduled, according to state election officials.
Kupchick and Politi have publicly sparred with Democratic voter registrar Matt Waggner over who has access to the Bigelow Center ballot storage site. The feud even led to a police report and State Elections Enforcement Commission complaints last year.
On Friday, Waggner insisted the facility is secure.
“The storage facility has an alarm system similar to those at other Town Hall buildings, and our storage room has a motion sensor connected to that alarm system,” he said in an email. “The equipment and materials are stored off-site due to the large amount of space that they require. Outside of election season, we access the site very rarely, and storing it at town hall would essentially displace a different department.”
Politi did not respond to a request for comment. The building also has a dual lock, requiring both registrars to open it. Inside, the voting machines are locked.
Still, Gerber thinks it might be time to store the ballots somewhere else.
“That should be revisited,” he said. “There should never be a situation where people doubt the custody – the chain of custody – of ballots.”

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