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September 18, 2023

Gomes alleges election tampering in Bridgeport primary; police investigating

JOHN GOMES CAMPAIGN John Gomes, the Democratic challenger to Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, released video footage which shows a woman dropping off stacks of absentee ballots.

Hours after John Gomes’ campaign released a video Saturday that he alleges shows evidence of election tampering in the Bridgeport primary by a supporter of Mayor Joe Ganim, the city’s police department confirmed it was investigating the actions in the footage.

Gomes challenged Ganim in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, losing by 251 votes, according to the most recent preliminary count posted on the Secretary of the State’s website.

The video, which was posted to the Gomes campaign Facebook page, shows a woman dropping stacks of papers into an absentee ballot box outside the government center in Bridgeport, where the city’s registrar of voters office is located.

The Gomes campaign alleges that the video shows Wanda Geter-Pataky, a Ganim supporter, dropping off stacks of absentee ballots ahead of the primary.

The Connecticut Mirror could not independently verify who is shown in the footage. Attempts to reach Geter-Pataky by phone and Facebook messenger Saturday were unsuccessful.

Rowena White, a spokesperson for the Ganim campaign, did not respond to questions about the video.

Connecticut law restricts who can return absentee ballots on behalf of voters. State statute says absentee ballots can be returned only by the ballot applicant, their family members, police officers, local election officials or someone who is directly caring for someone who receives an absentee ballot because they are ill or physically disabled.

Christine Bartlett-Josie, Gomes’ campaign manager, told the CT Mirror that the campaign received the video footage from someone earlier this week following the primary, and they immediately filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

SEEC spokesman Josh Foley said Saturday night he could not confirm or deny the existence of a complaint involving the Bridgeport election on Tuesday.

Foley said any complaints the agency receives are kept confidential until the full commission receives them. He said the commission has a meeting scheduled for this Wednesday.

Bartlett-Josie said the campaign also reached out to the State’s Attorney’s office, which has already been handed criminal referrals for three Ganim supporters who were investigated by the SEEC following the 2019 Bridgeport mayoral elections.

The Connecticut Post reported on Saturday that the Bridgeport Police Department had opened an investigation into the actions depicted in the video footage and a parallel investigation into how the Gomes campaign came into possession of the footage.

The police department released a statement to the CT Mirror reiterating these facts.

“The Bridgeport Police Department are actively investigating information regarding possible misconduct based upon a video that has surfaced on social media,” the statement said. “The Bridgeport Police Department immediately initiated an investigation to determine if any criminal wrongdoing has occurred. In addition, an internal investigation is being conducted to determine if any possible breach to our security video management system has occurred.”

Bridgeport Police Chief Roderick Porter said the department takes “these actions seriously and we will pursue possible criminal prosecution and/or administrative discipline as it relates to any such security violations.”

Ganim’s political campaign team released a statement on the video Sunday morning, noting that the matter “in its entirety” had been sent to the Bridgeport police for investigation.

Most of the statement, however, focused largely on the fact that someone leaked city surveillance footage to the Gomes campaign.

“I have full confidence in the chief, the department, and agencies to handle the apparent illegal actions of any city employees as it involves the release of any city property, including video footage and any related legal or city issues,” Ganim said in the prepared statement.

The video the Gomes campaign posted to its website includes timestamps at the bottom of the screen, suggesting it was taken from city surveillance cameras.

Geter-Pataky, who the Gomes campaign alleges is the woman in the video, is one of three individuals the SEEC recommended for criminal charges following an investigation into complaints about absentee ballot handling in Ganim’s tight 2019 primary against Sen. Marilyn Moore.

As a result, the Gomes campaign is alleging that the video is evidence of a string of absentee ballot fraud in the city.

Gomes put out a press release on Saturday announcing a rally to “End Absentee Ballot Abuse in Bridgeport.” He also announced a press conference at his campaign headquarters on Monday.

The campaign did not say, however, whether it plans to use the video footage to challenge the results of Tuesday’s election.

“We’re trying to figure this all out ourselves,” Bartlett-Josie said.

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