A Connecticut judge has surprisingly thrown out the results of the Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, the state’s largest city. The decision by Superior Court Judge William Clark was made in reaction to footage showing people stuffing duplicate absentee ballots into outdoor collecting boxes, raising questions about the validity of the election results.
The ruling, which was made just six days before the November 7 general election, requires a fresh primary to choose the legitimate Democratic nominee. In the previous campaign on September 12, incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim prevailed over challenger John Gomes by a margin of 251 votes. But the judge’s decision points to fraud and improper manipulation of the votes, requiring a primary rerun.
According to Clark’s decision, there were enough erroneously handled votes to seriously question the outcome of the primary, making it impossible for the court to decide the correct outcome. The judge’s judgment was influenced in part by the unusually high number of absentee ballots cast in some districts and the video footage of people breaking state law by stuffing ballot stacks into drop boxes.
Although the verdict leaves Clark without the power to call off or cancel the general election, it does set up a novel situation in which voters will select the legitimate Democratic nominee at a later date after first deciding on the general mayoral race.
In order to decide a potential date for the next primary, the judge has granted the attorneys in the case ten days to meet with local and state election officials. Whether city officials will appeal the ruling is still up in the air.
The Tuesday general election will go forward as planned, notwithstanding the legal turbulence. Along with Lamond Daniels and Republican David Herz, Gomes is an independent candidate competing against Democratic nominee Ganim.
Gomes declared, “This is a victory for the people of Bridgeport,” expressing his happiness with the judge’s ruling. Judge William Clark of the Superior Court concurred with our campaign’s steadfast belief that the integrity of our democratic system must be maintained.”
Mayor Ganim, who was subsequently elected again after being found guilty of corruption in the past, has continuously denied knowing anything improper about the ballots. The accusations and the video proof of ballot stuffing are being vigorously looked at by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
The case has spurred debates over state election changes, with some Republicans pointing to the Bridgeport ballot controversy as proof that voters need to have more faith in the political process. The citizens of Bridgeport are in a unique position as the legal process develops, juggling the demands of a legitimate and fair democratic process with the difficulties of a mayoral race surrounded by accusations of wrongdoing.