Vote 2024: State launches 4 new Bridgeport ballot investigations
The investigation into possible ballot fraud in the Bridgeport mayoral race is expanding again.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission voted to open four new investigations on Wednesday – including whether a ballot was cast for a woman days after she died.
The race between Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes was already tainted by ballot fraud. In a scathing ruling, a judge ordered a new Democratic primary after “shocking videos” showed Ganim supporters stuffing absentee ballot drop boxes.
Ganim acknowledged wrongdoing in a radio interview in December but maintains he did not know about it.
“There were people in the campaign that violated the election laws, as the judge clearly saw from evidence,” he told WICC-AM on Dec. 5.
Ganim insists that other videos show Gomes supporters violating ballot laws too, although they were not introduced in court.
“If anyone on my side that has done something illegal, file a complaint with the SEEC, as we’ve done,” Gomes told News 12 Connecticut.
All four of the new complaints came from election monitors appointed by Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas. They involve people linked to both campaigns.
One complaint alleges that an absentee ballot was mailed out on Jan. 11. The voter died that day – but eight days later, the Bridgeport Town Clerk received a ballot from the woman.
“The application came on January 10, signed by the voter, when she was still alive,” election monitor Peggy Reeves wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 23.
It’s unclear if the ballot was actually filled out, but the deceased woman’s vote was voided, and her name was removed from voter rolls.
“PICKED UP ILLEGALLY”
In other complaints, one voter wrote by hand: “I want to cancel my AB ballot. I will go in person, as it was picked up illegally from me.” Two others indicated “A lady came and picked up the ballot” and “They always come and pick for us. They work for Ganim.”
SEEC also launched investigations into two Bridgeport City Council members. One complaint claims that video shows Alfredo Castillo “doing curbside voting with them while he says in the car ... He told the moderators that he is an Uber driver." The commission already recommended criminal charges for Castillo over the 2019 election.
Castillo did not respond to calls, texts and e-mails for comment.
Another complaint accuses Council Member Maria Pereira of changing a woman’s party affiliation without her consent.
“Maria Pereira contacted [the Town Clerk’s] office to say that Mrs. Fernandez was now a Republican and her voted ballot should not be counted,” Reeves wrote in an e-mail to SOTS general counsel Gabe Rosenberg on Jan. 19. “I contacted Mrs. Fernandez by telephone today. She indicated that she has always been a Democrat and had no intention of changing her party affiliation.”
Reeves wrote that the voter’s original ballot was counted, and the party registration change was canceled.
Pereira declined to comment when reached Thursday afternoon.
Thomas said the new investigations are just referrals, not proof of wrongdoing.
"Secretary Thomas has worked to create a statewide culture of 'If you see something, say something.'" This extends to the Bridgeport Election Monitors as well as our office," she said in a statement. "Because we do not have the authority to investigate or adjudicate, we refer all potential violations of election law to the State Elections Enforcement Commission."
The four new complaints are now added to more than a dozen other investigations SEEC has already launched. The commission’s next meeting is Feb. 21.
Ganim won the do-over primary on Jan. 23, but voters will head back to the polls for a second general election on Feb. 27.