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State to investigate allegations of Bridgeport ballot box abuse as city employee placed on leave

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.
Video Screen Grab
John Gomes for Mayor Facebook
Video footage released by mayoral candidate John Gomes appears to show a person putting ballots in an absentee ballot box in Bridgeport the morning of Sept. 5, 2023.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission said Wednesday it is opening an investigation into allegations of absentee ballot abuse in Bridgeport.

Those allegations center on the Democratic mayoral primary held Sept. 12, where incumbent Joe Ganim defeated challenger John Gomes by 251 votes. Gomes was leading the machine vote count, but fell behind after absentee ballots were counted.

Meanwhile, a Bridgeport city employee was placed on paid administrative leave Monday. The move comes days after the release of a video appearing to show an individual repeatedly stuffing documents into an absentee ballot box in the city.

Connecticut Public has not independently confirmed the video’s authenticity or the identity of the person in the video.

Wanda Geter-Pataky is now on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation, according to a letter from the City of Bridgeport's Office of Labor Relations.

The letter, obtained Wednesday by Connecticut Public, does not specify the exact reason for the change in Geter-Pataky's employment status. It is not known whether it was in connection to the alleged absentee ballot issue. The letter was first reportedbythe Connecticut Post.

Geter-Pataky was named in two complaints filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission about the Sept. 12 primary results. The Gomes campaign has alleged absentee ballots were illegally returned to ballot drop boxes, in violation of state law.

The SEEC said Wednesday it received four complaints on the primary. The alleged violations risk weakening public trust in free and fair elections, SEEC Chair Stephen Penny said.

“The commission is in receipt of several complaints regarding these events and today we have determined that they fall within our jurisdiction,” Penny said. “They have been docketed. They will be thoroughly investigated.”

Gomes has filed a complaint in state court to get the primary election results overturned. The court complaint says Ganim received 1,545 votes by absentee ballots and Gomes received 851 votes by absentee ballots.

While she is named in two SEEC filings, Geter-Pataky is not named in the court complaint.

Connecticut Public reached out to Geter-Pataky for comment Wednesday but did not immediately receive a response.

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public Radio’s Eddy Martinez, Bria Lloyd, Jim Haddadin and Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

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