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Week in CT News: Absentee ballots 'mishandled,' humanitarian aid, downtown development

A ballot box outside of Bridgeport’s Margaret Morton Government Center, where a woman was seen on video placing multiple stacks of papers in a ballot box.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A ballot box outside of Bridgeport’s Margaret Morton Government Center, where a woman was seen on video placing multiple stacks of papers in a ballot box.

Judge orders a primary re-do in Bridgeport

A candidate for mayor in Bridgeport has successfully gotten the results from September’s primary thrown out.

Democrat John Gomes asked a judge to review the race, after incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim was declared the winner. Gomes argued surveillance video showed a large number of absentee ballots allegedly dropped in a ballot box by a Ganim supporter, which lawyers argued shouldn’t have been counted.

Connecticut judge William F. Clark agreed, ruling in Gomes’ favor.

“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.”

Clark ordered the two sides in the lawsuit to work with the state over a 10-day period to determine a date for a new Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport.

Nationally, allegations of vote tampering in Bridgeport are fueling a population of election deniers that prefer in-person voting to absentee balloting.

“That this happened here is beyond reasonable doubt,” wrote entrepreneur Elon Musk on his social media platform, X. “The only question is how common it is.”

An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by Trump has found fewer than 475 — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election. And legal challenges to the 2020 election were heard and roundly rejected by dozens of courts at both state and federal levels, including by judges whom Trump appointed.

Ganim on ballot boxes: get them out of here

Some Republican lawmakers in Connecticut have called for absentee ballot boxes to be removed in the state in the wake of the Bridgeport primary scandal.

Speaking on Connecticut Public’s The Wheelhouse on Wednesday, Ganim said he tried to get rid of the boxes in his city, but was told by his staff he didn’t have the authority.

“Let’s get the damn boxes out of there if they’re the cause of the problem here that led, in part, to all of this,” Ganim said.

The last two primaries Ganim won have been investigated by state election enforcement officials, including in 2019. That’s a year before the state sent out ballot drop boxes in the COVID-19 pandemic for contactless voting.

Despite the judge’s decision this week, the general election will take place as planned on Tuesday. Ganim will appear as the Democratic nominee. Gomes is on the ballot, too, as an independent candidate. Lamond Daniels and Republican David Herz are also running for mayor.

Ganim’s team is telling people to vote by absentee ballot if they must.

Meanwhile, if Gomes wins the general on Tuesday, he may choose to not go forward with a second primary.

“All we could do is ask the voters of Bridgeport to show up on November 7, and cast their vote in person to make sure that this does not happen again,” Gomes said.

The judge’s decision could still be appealed. Ganim says that city attorneys are weighing a way forward.

Where do Connecticut lawmakers stand on the war between Israel and Hamas?

The U.S. government faces pressure from advocates for Palestinian civilians as it continues to support what many lawmakers are characterizing as Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

Pro-Palestinian groups are protesting in Connecticut and beyond, calling for an end to the bombing of Gaza by Isreali Defense Forces. Israel waged war on Gaza after a surprise attack on Oct. 7 by the Islamic militant group Hamas.

U.S. Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy, a Democrat, says he supports Israel’s right to defend itself. But he’s also asking Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise caution when it comes to waging a war that kills Palestinian civilians.

“Israel has to be very careful about the number of civilian casualties, and you've seen those numbers rise to pretty disturbing levels in the last few days, not just because there's a moral requirement to keep civilians free of harm, but because Hamas in the long run, and extremist groups in the long run, get stronger if civilians ultimately are the casualty of these military operations,” Murphy told Connecticut Public’s John Henry Smith earlier this week.

“That's what we saw in Afghanistan. That's why the Taliban got stronger over the time, didn't get weaker, and we've got to be clear with Israel about the consequences if they are too permissive of civilian casualties inside Gaza.”

At least 9,000 Palestinians have died in response to Hamas’ infiltration of Israel.

Children are nearly half of Gaza’s population. Speaking on Connecticut Public’s Where We Live Friday, an executive with Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization based in Connecticut, said more children have been killed in Gaza over the past three weeks than the total killed in conflicts globally in every year since 2019.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Netanyahu Friday to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.

Murphy said he supports a “humanitarian pause” that would allow for aid to be rendered to civilians in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu says the campaign won’t stop until Hamas releases hostages they took from Israel in the October attack – a position U.S. Senator from Connecticut Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, supports.

The city of Hartford will settle with a former contractor in order to complete its stadium-area development

A stadium project that was supposed to cost the city of Hartford no more than $60 million has ballooned north of $85 million.

Hartford City council members have agreed to pay $9.9 million to Arch Insurance to resolve a lawsuit filed by Centerplan Construction, LLC.

After it was announced in 2014 that the New Britain Rock Cats were leaving for Hartford, Centerplan worked with the city of Hartford to develop a new ballpark in the downtown north section of town. The Yard Goats were supposed to play ball in Hartford beginning in 2016, but they didn’t get to until the following year, after the city fired Centerplan amid delays and cost overruns.

The $71 million stadium was completed and RMS Companies has developed parcels of land outside of the stadium for retail and residential use on behalf of the city, but has been unable to complete projects due to an ongoing lawsuit between Hartford and its former stadium developers.

Following the settlement – and a long legal battle that the Hartford Courant reports cost $6 million in attorney fees – the city of Hartford and RMS Companies are expected to move on without worrying about appeals filed on behalf of the former developer that could further stall redevelopment.

Frankie & Johnny premieres Fridays at 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on Connecticut Public Radio. Connecticut Public’s Matt Dwyer, Lisa Hagen, Eddy Martinez, Patrick Skahill, Tess Terrible and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.
John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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