Connecticut mayoral election do-over set for this month amid election fraud investigations

Bridgeport, Connecticut has a history of redoing elections following allegations of voter fraud.
A ballot drop box

The Bridgeport, Conn., mayoral election that began last fall is set to conclude at the end of the month, amid multiple election fraud complaints and investigations. Alleged election fraud has overshadowed the largest city in Connecticut as the mayoral election that was originally scheduled last year is set to conclude in a couple of weeks.

A "Do-Over" mayoral election was ordered by a judge in November after a video was posted online that appeared to show a supporter of incumbent Democrat Mayor Joe Ganim stuffing stacks of papers into an absentee ballot drop box during the September Democratic mayoral primary election.

Ballot harvesting is illegal in Connecticut, as only a designated family member, police officer, election official or caregiver can drop off voters' absentee ballots.

The court order resulted from an election challenge filed by Ganim’s Democratic opponent, John Gomes, against the mayor over alleged absentee ballot abuse. Ganim has acknowledged that campaign workers violated election laws but denied being aware of it at the time.

Ganim lost the votes cast via voting machines but won with the margin in absentee ballots, of which 2,630 were cast in total. According to the lawsuit, Ganim received 694 more votes in absentee ballots than Gomes did. Ganim won by 251 votes out of 8,173 cast in the primary election.

The judge set the redo primary for Jan. 23 and the redo general election for Feb. 27.

Ahead of the primary, the Democratic Connecticut Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas advised voters to cast their ballots in person.

She said that their election “monitors cannot do it all, and we encourage anyone who can do so to vote in person on January 23rd. If someone voted by absentee ballot but is unsure if they should have done so, they may withdraw their absentee ballot by going in-person to the Town Clerk’s office before 10 a.m. on Election Day, and they may then vote at their assigned polling place.”

Ganim won the primary by 1,077 votes.

Gomes is running in the general election as an Independent, with Republican candidate David Herz also in the race. Independent candidate Lamond Daniels dropped out of the general election late last month.

Bridgeport is made up of 4,719 registered Republicans, 42,371 Democrats, 22,555 unaffiliated voters, and 479 Independent and other third party voters. 

The city still held its general election in November after the judge ordered the redo elections, even though the outcome was inconsequential. Ganim received 5,729 votes, Gomes got 5,550, Daniels had 1,836. and Herz finished with 765.

A week before the January redo primary, Thomas sent a complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) regarding an allegedly illegal absentee ballot application circulator, according to the secretary’s office. An election monitor made the secretary’s office aware of a photo of a person who appeared to be circulating absentee ballot applications to voters without being registered as a circulator.

The photo was brought to the attention of the secretary by Ganim, after Gomes’ campaign posted it on Facebook, the CT Examiner reported. The Gomes campaign worker said that she had misinterpreted the town clerk’s instructions regarding the absentee ballot applications.

The Gomes campaign denied any wrongdoing.

Last week, the SEEC voted to open four new investigations after complaints came from the secretary’s election monitors. One complaint was related to a deceased voter casting an absentee ballot while the rest were regarding ballot harvesting. Local TV News station 12 Connecticut reported that the new investigations "include whether a ballot was cast for a woman days after she died."

The SEEC has also launched investigations into two members of the Bridgeport City Council.

One investigation involves a complaint that claims video shows a council member “doing curbside voting.” The SEEC had already recommended criminal charges for the council member for the 2019 election.

The other council member allegedly changed a voter’s party affiliation without her consent. The SEEC is currently looking into at least 11 complaints regarding the January redo primary election.

Ganim was first elected mayor in 1991 and served for 12 years before resigning over being caught accepting bribes. He was convicted of extortion and spent seven years in prison before winning back the mayoral office in 2015 and reelection in 2019.

Gomes helped Ganim get elected in 2015 and worked in his administration until he was fired in July 2022.

Last year wasn’t the first time that Bridgeport has had election fraud issues and new elections ordered.

In 2022, a "do over" of a Bridgeport state representative Democratic primary election was ordered by a judge after complaints were made of mishandled absentee ballots, which were followed by two recounts and weeks-long litigation.

Five years prior, a re-do Bridgeport Democratic city council primary was ordered by a judge when the initial race was decided by one absentee ballot that was found during a recount.

Gomes' campaign told Just the News on Wednesday, "Any offender who mishandled ballots in violation of the law should be subject to the penalties outlined in the CT General Statutes. There are currently 21 SEEC complaints relating to the September 12th Democratic Primary. There were opportunities during the civil trial for the city and the mayor to call additional witnesses and the attorneys for the city declined."

When Ganim's campaign was reached for comment, the communications director on Wednesday sent a link to Just the News of a CT Examiner article, calling it "an outline of an active investigation against 24 members of the Gomes campaign for absentee ballot violations as well as blatant disregard for the judge’s direct court order."