Few residents of Bridgeport, Connecticut — weary of a long history of election irregularities involving absentee ballots — were surprised to see local news surveillance videos that appeared to show a female making multiple early morning trips on Sept. 5th to stuff envelopes into an absentee ballot drop box one week before a hotly contested Democratic Party mayoral primary.
Bridgeport, a Democratic Party stronghold of 148,000 residents, has been under state and federal scrutiny for decades over absentee ballot problems that would have made Boss Tweed blush. (READ MORE: Dem Ploys to Deny, Overturn GOP Presidential Wins Revealed in New Trump Ad)
The videos — which were captured by city-owned security cameras — were made public by John Gomes, Bridgeport’s former chief administrative officer, days after he narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Joseph Ganim, the incumbent Democratic mayor.
Under Connecticut law, anyone using a collection drop box to vote by absentee ballot must drop off their completed ballots themselves or designate certain family members, police, local election officials, or a caregiver to do it for them. Yet, videos show the woman identified in the media as stuffing envelopes into a drop box three times between 5:42 a.m. and 6:38 a.m. on Sept. 5th. The video also shows the same woman inside the City Hall Annex handing envelopes to a man, who appears to deposit them into the absentee ballot box.
Gomes lost to Mayor Ganim by 251 votes. Like President Trump in the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania and a number of other swing states where the vote counting was stopped during the middle of the night, Gomes had a substantial lead over Ganim, having received a far greater share of votes from in-person voters on primary day. But he lost the race after more than 2,300 absentee ballots were later added to the vote tally.
Gomes has charged that absentee balloting in the Bridgeport Democratic primary was fraudulent. According to media reports, many Bridgeport residents would agree. In fact, CT Examiner reported that “It’s called getting ‘Bridgeported.’…. Candidates are ‘Bridgeported’ when they win an election at the polling places but are overtaken when the absentee ballots are counted.” (READ MORE: Georgia’s Geoff Duncan Must Be Disqualified for Anti-Trump Bias)
Gomes believes he has been “Bridgeported.” And the videos of a woman stuffing the absentee ballot box suggest that there may indeed be irregularities. Although she has not been formally charged, local media has reported that the culprit is believed to be a female Ganim supporter and vice-chair of Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee. She also has a city job as a greeter at the Bridgeport Government Center.
This is not the first time this particular woman has been under investigation in cases involving election irregularities in Bridgeport. The State Elections Enforcement Commission completed an absentee ballot fraud investigation of the 2019 Ganim election campaign, including his previous primary race; this same woman was one of three individuals whom the SEEC referred to the chief state’s attorney’s office to consider criminal charges. Coincidentally, in the 2019 Democratic primary, Ganim lost the vote count of primary day voting yet narrowly beat his primary opponent by 270 absentee ballot votes.
Ganim, who served seven years in federal prison for engaging in racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud, bribery, conspiracy, and filing false income tax returns during his five terms as Bridgeport mayor, has told local NBC reporters that he did “not condone, in any way, actions taken by anyone including any campaign, city, or elected officials, which undermines the integrity of either the electoral process or city property”
But Ganim supporters claim that “racial bias, not ballot fraud, is the issue in Bridgeport.” Suggesting that since the individual who is seen in the video stuffing envelopes into the ballot box is Black, Ganim supporter Mary McBridge-Lee, a Bridgeport Council Member, organized a public event to claim racism. (READ MORE: What DeSantis Won’t Admit)
Darnell Crosland, a local criminal defense attorney, told reporters that the woman seen in the video has been “unfairly ‘convicted’ without a proper defense.” In some ways, Crosland is correct. As with all video evidence that is shared publicly, individuals who are exposed as appearing to engage in illegal activities are convicted in the media without a proper investigation. But one has to question why this same woman who was implicated and referred for criminal prosecution for voter fraud in the 2019 mayor primary election was still allowed to remain in her position with access to absentee ballots. In this case, justice delayed is indeed justice denied for the Gomes campaign.
The 2023 primary is already the subject of a state election investigation, and Gomes has filed a civil lawsuit. But, as the 2019 investigation demonstrated, it is too little and way too late. In an attempt to reassure Bridgeport voters, state lawmakers have voted to approve $150,000 in funding for a special election monitor for Bridgeport. But it is likely that few are reassured.
All of this has implications for the upcoming presidential election because it shows so clearly how easy it has been for local election officials to undermine the election process. Many of us still believe that there were serious irregularities in the 2020 election. Some still believe that President Trump was “Bridgeported.” Although we have been reassured that election integrity is the goal for 2024, it is difficult to believe that the culture of cheating at the local level in places like Bridgeport will change anytime soon.