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Ballot-Stuffers Caught on Camera Have Upended a Race for Mayor


Residents of Bridgeport, Conn., are preparing to cast their ballots in what may be the most confusing election in the country.

A judge this week tossed out the results of the Democratic mayoral primary, citing surveillance video that appears to show significant voting irregularities. He ordered election officials to hold a new primary but had no authority to postpone the general election in the meantime. And so, on Tuesday, the general election will go on as planned.

What happens after that is uncertain.

“Obviously, we’re in very uncharted legal waters here,” said State Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport and a co-chair of the legislature’s judiciary committee.

The city finds itself in this mess after videos surfaced that showed suspicious activity at absentee ballot drop boxes. In clip after clip, two women are seen stuffing wads of paper into the boxes.

The current legal fight started after the September primary in which Mr. Ganim beat his opponent, John Gomes, by 251 votes. Mr. Gomes challenged the outcome in court, citing the video clips, which were taken from municipal surveillance cameras stationed near the city’s four absentee ballot drop boxes. A clip appeared on social media days after the primary, leading Mr. Gomes’s lawyers to file a lawsuit to get all 2,100 hours of tape on the drop boxes.

Judge Clark ruled that just two women made or were directly involved in 15 incidents of drop boxes being stuffed with ballots. He wrote that the videos showed “credible evidence that the ballots were being ‘harvested’” — a process by which third-party individuals gather and submit completed absentee ballots in bulk, rather than individual voters submitting them for themselves, in violation of election laws.

Both women, the judge wrote, were “partisans” for Mr. Ganim.

Bill Bloss, Mr. Gomes’s lawyer, said his own review of the surveillance videos showed that no more than 420 people submitted ballots at Bridgeport drop boxes, but at least 1,253 ballots were submitted there.

Mr. Ganim denied any involvement. “I was as shocked as everyone when the video came out,” he said.

Both candidates said they were dismayed by the videos, and both men acknowledge that some of their supporters submitted multiple ballots.

“On both sides, there is video of the irregularities,” Mr. Ganim said. He added: “That’s not acceptable. We all want everyone’s vote to count. We all want fair elections.”

Mr. Gomes said his supporters had acted legally and had been submitting ballots for family members. The entire scandal is unfortunate, he said, adding, “Another black eye for Bridgeport.”

But the judge’s order focuses on Mr. Ganim’s supporters, some of whom appear to have submitted many ballots, many times.

“These instances do not appear to the court to be random,” Judge Clark wrote. “They appear to be conscious acts with partisan purpose.”

As a result of the primary confusion, choosing the city’s next mayor has become exceedingly complicated.

On Tuesday, the general election ballot will feature four candidates: Mr. Ganim; Mr. Gomes, now running as an Independent; David Herz, a Republican; and Lamond Daniels, an unaffiliated candidate.

If Mr. Gomes wins the general election, he intends to withdraw his complaint about the Democratic primary and, if necessary, formally ask the judge to cancel his order for a new vote. In that scenario, presumably, Mr. Gomes would just become mayor.

If Mr. Gomes does not win on Tuesday, but does win the second primary, he would advance to a second general election as the Democratic nominee. (Mr. Ganim would still be on the ballot, this time with the New Movement Party, according to Rowena White, his campaign spokeswoman.)

Alternatively, if Mr. Ganim wins the general election on Tuesday, and then wins the second primary, there would be no second general election, Mr. Bloss said. Mr. Ganim would be re-elected.

If one of the other two general election candidates wins on Tuesday, Bridgeport would hold a new Democratic primary and then a new general election.

Officials have yet to decide when a second primary would occur. Mr. Ganim or the city could still appeal the judge’s order calling for the new vote. And both campaigns would need time to get back into gear, even for a do-over vote.


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