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Judge set to rule on lawsuit seeking Bridgeport mayoral primary do-over

Judge William Clark presides over a hearing in Bridgeport Superior Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. Sept. 25, 2023.
Ned Gerard
Hearst Newspapers
Judge William Clark presides over a hearing in Bridgeport Superior Court, in Bridgeport, Conn. Sept. 25, 2023.

A Connecticut Superior Court judge is expected to decide on a lawsuit over the results of the Bridgeport mayoral primary by the end of the month.

Judge William Clark ordered the attorneys to submit post hearing briefs by next week.

"It's appropriate for the help from the court to have post hearing briefs, in lieu of closing arguments,” Clark said.

The hearings ended on a subdued note after nearly a week of testimony from various witnesses and video exhibits over allegations of electoral misconduct in the Bridgeport mayoral primary. Now Judge William Clark is expected to make a decision on if a new primary is needed, weeks before the general elections.

Democratic challenger John Gomes’ attorney, William Bloss, argued several aspects presented in testimony put the results of a tight primary race, where incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim won by 251 votes with the help of absentee ballots, in question. He cited the videos showing supporters of Ganim’s reelection campaign allegedly putting stacks of ballots inside a drop off box.

Bloss said it's obvious the primary was not done by the book.

“There were clearly election violations of the election statutes on the video,” Bloss said.

The original video allegedly showing Wanda Geter-Pataky stuffing absentee ballots in a drop box was leaked in September, and prompted the lawsuit by Gomes.

State law says absentee ballots can only be dropped off by the voter the ballot belongs to, or by a designated person — such as a family member, a caretaker, or a municipal employee like a police officer or the registrar of voters.

Two women at the heart of the controversy, Geter-Pataky and Eneida Martinez, both supporting Ganim, largely pled the Fifth Amendement in response to questioning about their role in alleged absentee ballot misconduct. Ganim also took the stand, but denied ever speaking to Pataky about absentee ballots.

But according to John Kannelly, who represents the city’s Democratic Registrar of Voters Patricia Howard, that doesn’t mean much.

“To take a negative inference from people availing themselves of the Fifth Amendment is just too much of a stretch,” Kannelly said.

While Bloss said there is ample evidence to doubt the validity of the primary results, Kannelly said while electoral misconduct may have occurred, none of what Bloss showed in the courtroom meets the threshold to throw out the primary results.

“You must understand that not one voter was placed on that stand, to say that there was an irregularity in how the votes were cast, and how they were tallied, that did not occur,” Kannelly said. “Without such proof, there is no evidence of any election irregularities.”

Bloss said the judge cannot postpone the general election and if Gomes prevails in the general election the case is moot. If Ganim wins the general election and the judge orders a new primary and Gomes wins, he says, then a new election will be held.

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