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Connecticut Judge Overturns Bridgeport Primary Election; New Vote Ordered

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A judge in Connecticut has thrown out the results of the Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, ordering a new election for the position just days before voters in the city are scheduled to go to the polls on November 7.

The ruling on Wednesday is the most recent development in an election that has revolved around allegations of absentee ballot abuse in Hartford, Connecticut.

A video purporting to show a supporter of incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim stuffing stacks of papers into an absentee ballot drop box went viral online, drawing widespread attention to the election, Connecticut Public reported.

Ganim won the primary on September 12 with 251 votes out of 8,173 cast, but Superior Court Judge William Clark threw out the results because of allegations of possible wrongdoing. Absentee ballots guaranteed his victory.

“The volume of ballots so mishandled is such that it calls the result of the primary election into serious doubt and leaves the court unable to determine the legitimate result of the primary,” Clark wrote in his ruling, adding that the videos “are shocking to the court and should be shocking to all the parties.”

A new primary date has not been set yet.

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John Gomes, Ganim’s opponent, sued the city and demanded a new primary or that he be declared the winner after his campaign obtained the surveillance video and made it public after the election.

Bill Bloss, a lawyer, represented him in court.

“At the end of the day, the videos don’t lie,” Bloss said after Wednesday’s ruling was released. “The videos showed substantial, massive absentee ballot misconduct. And that was certainly a substantial reason why the judge ruled the way he did, I think.”

Gomes called the ruling “a victory for the people of Bridgeport,” adding, “Our campaign always believed that the integrity of our democratic process must be upheld,” he said in a statement.

Ganim said he’ll wait to hear from his lawyers as to whether they will appeal the ruling. He encouraged residents to vote during Tuesday’s election.

“Let’s send a powerful message that we want to keep the progress going in Bridgeport,” Ganim said.

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Whether or not Bridgeport will need to hold another primary despite the judge’s order is currently unclear. Attorneys for both sides told Connecticut Public it will depend on the results of the statewide election next week.

On Tuesday, voters will again cast ballots in the mayoral election. The attorneys all agreed that if Ganim were to win, it would almost certainly trigger another primary.

But Gomes will also be on Tuesday’s ballot. A fringe political group has backed him. If he does well in the general election, the lawsuits may be settled.

According to Bloss, a new primary would be held no sooner than four weeks from now and no later than the new year, depending on the speed with which election officials can prepare.

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Clark issued his ruling on Wednesday, instructing the parties to meet within 10 days to discuss meeting with election officials to schedule a new primary.

The Secretary of State’s office has stated that it will discuss the primary date with the campaigns and Bridgeport election officials, among others.

State Secretary Stephanie Thomas expressed her gratitude to Governor Clark for “protecting the integrity of our elections” by calling for a fresh primary, saying she was “pleased” by his decision.

“We hope the city will ensure that all eligible voters are made aware of the new date to avoid disenfranchising any citizens,” Thomas said in a statement. “The court’s finding that there was a ‘significant mishandling of ballots’ should be of great concern to all. Our office will continue to advocate for policies such as drop box surveillance, a Connecticut Election Court, and investment in voter education – all of which will strengthen our election system.”

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