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October 12, 2023

Hearing in Bridgeport election fraud case begins Thursday

SHAHRZAD RASEKH / CT MIRROR William Bloss, the lawyer for Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes, speaks to the press on Sept. 25.

After spending weeks poring over thousands of hours of video of people depositing documents into absentee ballot drop boxes and reviewing nearly 10,000 absentee ballot documents for signatures, attorneys for Bridgeport Democratic mayoral candidate John Gomes said their case primarily focuses on one thing:

The number of absentee ballots actually cast for Gomes and Mayor Joseph P. Ganim in the Sept. 12 primary far exceeds the number that should have been received — unless people were depositing more than one ballot at a time in drop boxes, Gomes’ attorney said.

Judge William Clark has set aside roughly two weeks for possible witness testimony, but Gomes’ attorney William Bloss doesn’t expect the hearing to go nearly that long. And while he said he could raise questions about some specific absentee ballots, he doesn’t anticipate a parade of witnesses.

“Could I put on enough witnesses to challenge 251 individual ballots? We probably could, but that would take months and months to do,” Bloss said. “This is not a case where the margin was just a few votes that could change the outcome.”

Instead, Bloss is expected to base his argument that a new primary is needed on simple numbers. 

There were 2,630 absentee ballots counted during the primary, which incumbent Ganim won by 251 votes over Gomes. The mayor lost the machine vote but overtook Gomes because of the margin in absentee ballots.

Gomes filed a lawsuit after surveillance footage emerged that allegedly shows a Ganim supporter depositing absentee ballots into a drop box outside the city’s Government Center ahead of the Sept. 12 primary.

Bloss and other attorneys at the Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder law firm have reviewed more than 2,000 hours of security videos of all four of the drop boxes in the city from August 22 to Sept. 12, Bloss said.

They have isolated and counted every person who made a deposit into one of the boxes, and while he wouldn’t reveal the numbers, Bloss said “there’s an overwhelming number of absentee ballots that were put into the drop box compared to the number of people on the video dropping them in.”

Bloss said that raises the question of whether some people illegally put multiple envelopes containing ballots into the drop boxes.

Bloss, who has litigated election challenges in Bridgeport before, including getting the result of a race for state representative overturned in 2022, said the existence of the video makes this lawsuit unprecedented.

“This is a case like no other in the history of the state of Connecticut, because there’s an unprecedented amount of video evidence and documentary evidence,” Bloss said at a press conference following a recent hearing. “We’re going to do everything we can to go through in a timely way and try to get to the bottom of what happened here during this primary.”

Hartford attorney John Bailey Kennelly, who is representing Bridgeport Democratic Registrar of Voters Patricia Howard, agreed the video makes this a different case than most contested elections.

“The video changes the vibe of it,” Kennelly said. “It will be interesting to see if the videos are accepted. Many of them are poor quality, and it’s difficult to see what people have in their hands.”

Kennelly said he doesn’t anticipate calling witness other than, possibly, his client, but that could change depending on what evidence Bloss presents.  

“As the evidence develops, we could call other witnesses,” Kennelly said, adding that he expected the first day or so of the hearing to be mostly “housekeeping issues” such as asking police to explain how the security videos are stored and what the chain of evidence was for any that could be admitted as exhibits.  

In addition to the videos, the absentee ballots that were cast in the election are also important in the lawsuit. 

The State Elections Enforcement Commission has seized all of the absentee ballots, applications and envelopes associated with each ballot as part of its investigation into 19 complaints of ballot fraud.

SEEC has turned over copies of all of the documents to the court for the hearing.  

Lawyers with the state Attorney General’s office told Clark it took the SEEC staff time to scan and copy the absentee ballot applications and envelopes because they wanted to preserve the potential “forensic evidence” on those documents. 

Joshua Foley, a spokesman for the SEEC, told the Connecticut Mirror last week that additional precautions were taken during the scanning of those ballots so that staff would not destroy or contaminate any fingerprints or DNA on the documents and envelopes.

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