The state Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating allegations of absentee ballot irregularities in Bridgeport’s Democratic primary for mayor.
The probe comes after Hearst Connecticut Media reported widespread problems with the Sept. 10 primary, ranging from absentee ballots submitted by people not registered as Democrats to ineligible felons casting absentee ballots.
On Monday, Sept. 23, the state Elections Enforcement Commission voted 4-0 at a special meeting to issues subpoenas to the Bridgeport Town Clerk. Officials promised to move quickly because of the approaching Nov. 5 general election, but said such investigations are time-consuming.
The subpoenas seek any absentee ballot mailed in for the Sept. 10 primary; the inner and outer envelopes; absentee ballot distribution logs; voided and rejected ballots; moderator logs and other documents.
Some absentee voters told news reporters they had been pressured into voting for incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim, who narrowly defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore.
While Ganim lost at the polls to Moore, he was able to win the primary with a majority of absentee ballots and a final margin of 270 votes
Moore has claimed “blatant voter fraud." Although she defeated the incumbent Ganim 4,721 to 4,337 on Election Day, an absentee ballot tally of 967 to 313 pushed the sitting mayor to a 5,304 to 5,034 victory.
Moore, who is continuing her campaign as a write-in candidate, called for a probe into possible voter fraud.
“I cannot stand aside and let the voters of Bridgeport be silenced,” Moore said in a written statement.
Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Friday that he believed the issues raised by Hearst merited an investigation by the commission.
“Although my office does not have authority to investigate allegations, we stand ready to assist SEEC in any way we can,” she said in a written statement. “I intend to use the full authority granted to my office to ensure that free and fair elections are held in Bridgeport, and across Connecticut, on November 5th.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven criticized Merrill for not acting sooner.
Unlike Merrill’s office, the elections enforcement commission can impose fines in election cases. Commission officials told the Hartford Courant they decided to hold Monday’s meeting based on a referral from Merrill’s office.
Ganim has called for the ballots to be “supervised” in the upcoming November general election. He said in a written statement that he supports Merrill’s request for a review of any irregularities.
Meanwhile, independent consultant Jeff Kohut announced his own plans to run as a write-in candidate. Kohut ran for Bridgeport mayor in 2011, when he was defeated by incumbent Democrat Bill Finch. Finch lost the 2015 Democratic primary to Ganim.
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