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Mayor Joe Ganim takes stand in court over allegations of Bridgeport ballot box fraud

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim speaks during a hearing in Bridgeport Superior Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. Oct. 17, 2023.
Pool / Ned Gerard
/
Hearst Newspapers
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim speaks during a hearing in Bridgeport Superior Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. Oct. 17, 2023

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim took the stand Tuesday in a hearing challenging the results of the city’s Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary.

The incumbent mayor fielded questions over allegations of illegal absentee ballot box stuffing in a lawsuit filed by his Democratic mayoral challenger John Gomes, whom Ganim defeated in the primary.

After security camera footage was released showing a woman allegedly stuffing multiple ballots into a drop box in the early morning hours, Ganim testified he told Bridgeport’s police chief to find out how the video became public.

Gomes' attorney in the lawsuit, William Bloss, said the videos prove widespread abuse of the absentee ballot system in Bridgeport.

Bloss asked Ganim if he directed the police chief to conduct a broader review of video evidence in the city to see if there were other incidents of ballot box misuse.

“I didn’t get into how to tell the chief to do his investigation,” Ganim said. “I did raise the specter with him.”

“My question is whether you had an understanding – based on that meeting – that that’s what he was going to do,” Bloss said.

“I don’t have understandings. I have conversations,” Ganim said. “And I’m trying to relate to you my conversation with him.”

A few minutes later, Bloss again asked Ganim if he was concerned about other video evidence of ballot box misuse.

“Certainly I wanted to know,” Ganim said. “Sure.”

But Ganim denied under oath Tuesday ever discussing absentee ballots with a campaign volunteer who resembles a woman seen on surveillance video stuffing papers into a drop box multiple times in the predawn darkness ahead of the mayoral primary.

Last week, Wanda Geter-Pataky, vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, pleaded the Fifth Amendment and exercised her right to remain silent about whether she was the woman seen on the surveillance footage.

Ganim said under oath Tuesday he thought the woman in the video was Geter-Pataky.

“I believe that’s her,” Ganim said. “It looks like her.”

“Did you see that she just put in a stack of ballots into the absentee ballot drop box?” Bloss asked.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Ganim said. “I can’t tell exactly what she’s putting in there. It’s something white. Could be envelopes, of course.”

The court fight is taking place just weeks before Bridgeport voters are set to go to the polls in the Nov. 7 general election, when both Ganim and Gomes will be on the ballot again.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission recently launched its own investigation into possible fraud in the Bridgeport primary, based partly over concerns raised in security camera videos that became public shortly after the votes were counted.

Gomes, Bridgeport’s former chief administrative officer, is demanding a new primary or for Judge William Clark to declare him the victor.

Ganim won the primary by 251 votes out of 8,173 cast.

Ganim noted it was his office that had worked to ensure the absentee ballot drop boxes — originally allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic — were located in view of city-owned surveillance cameras for security purposes. He told reporters outside the courthouse that he has since implemented more “stringent measures" on absentee ballot voting in light of the videos, but insisted absentee ballots are important in a city with a large elderly and disabled population.

“I want to ensure everyone has their vote and their vote counts,” he said.

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public’s Matt Dwyer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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