BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — A state judge has ordered a new Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, citing evidence of mishandled absentee ballots, to be held after the Nov. 7 general election.
Superior Court Judge William Clark determined the allegations of possible misconduct warrant throwing out the results of the Sept. 12 primary, in which incumbent Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim defeated John Gomes by 251 votes out of 8,173 cast. Absentee ballots secured his margin of 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.”
According to Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, the date of the new primary must be determined within ten days of the judge’s decision.
“The Court’s finding that there was a ‘significant mishandling of ballots’ should be of great concern to all,” Thomas said. “Our office will continue to advocate for policies such as dropbox surveillance, a Connecticut Election Court, and investment in voter education – all of which will strengthen our election system.”
“This is a victory for the people of Bridgeport,” Gomes said. “Our campaign always believed that the integrity of our democratic process must be upheld, and Superior Court Judge William Clark agreed.”
“Over the coming days, we will explore all legal options that are available to us, including the possibility of appealing the court’s decision,” Ganim said in a revised statement. “But right now, I am focused on the general election happening this Tuesday, Nov. 7, in which I am the Democratic nominee for mayor. We need the voters of Bridgeport to come out and support the process, both for me and for all of the municipal offices that will appear on Tuesday’s ballot.”
Gomes and his campaign obtained and publicly released surveillance video, which they claimed showed a Ganim supporter stuffing absentee ballots into a ballot drop box. Gomes and his team sued city officials and demanded a new primary or for him to be declared the winner.
Ganim has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing related to ballots and has raised concerns about other videos, which he says show Gomes’ campaign workers dropping in multiple pieces of paper resembling ballots.
Despite the judge’s call for a new primary, the general election is expected to continue as planned. Ganim will appear as the Democratic nominee, while Gomes will appear as an independent candidate. Republican David Herz and petitioning candidate Lamond Daniels are also running for mayor.
Under Connecticut law, people using a collection box to vote by absentee ballot must drop off their completed ballots or designate certain family members, police, local election officials or a caregiver to do it for them.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.