BRIDGEPORT, Conn. ‘Poll mishandling’ fuels election skeptics

Connecticut judge orders new Bridgeport mayoral primary after videos show possible ballot stuffing

A decide’s order to carry a brand new major in Connecticut’s largest metropolis over what he described as mishandling of absentee ballots has fueled doubts concerning the safety of US elections, in addition to conspiracy theories associated to the 2020 presidential election.

However election consultants stress that what occurred in Bridgeport — individuals caught on surveillance video dropping stacks of ballots into out of doors assortment bins — is exclusive to Bridgeport, a working-class metropolis of greater than 144,000 with a protracted historical past. Of voting irregularities. On the very least, they mentioned, it is vitally uncommon and shouldn’t be taken as proof of widespread issues.

“In Connecticut, that is an issue right here and right here,” Invoice Bloss, a longtime election regulation lawyer who represents the Democratic candidate who efficiently challenged the outcomes of the town’s mayoral major, mentioned Thursday, when requested concerning the case fueling misinformation concerning the former president. Simply”. Defeating Donald Trump in 2020.

An Related Press overview of each potential case of voter fraud within the six states contested by Trump discovered fewer than 475 instances — a quantity that will not have made any distinction within the 2020 presidential election. Authorized challenges to the 2020 election had been heard and roundly rejected by dozens Courts on the state and federal ranges, together with judges appointed by Trump.

“Our case was primarily based on the proof. It could not have been the case in different instances,” Bloss mentioned, including that “proof issues.”

On Wednesday, Connecticut Decide William Clark threw out the outcomes of the Sept. 12 major and ordered a brand new election, citing what he referred to as “surprising” surveillance movies that appeared to point out supporters of Mayor Joe Ganim dropping a number of items of bullets. Paper in absentee poll bins.

Below Connecticut regulation, voters utilizing assortment bins should drop off their accomplished ballots themselves, or designate designated relations, police, native election officers or a caregiver to take action on their behalf. The quantity of “mishandled ballots” left the court docket unable to find out the official end result of the first, Clark wrote in his determination.

Ghanem, a Democrat who was repeatedly re-elected, though he needed to take a break from public workplace whereas serving seven years in jail on corruption fees, denied any data of voting regulation violations.

To date, the Bridgeport scandal has not concerned any allegations that individuals falsified ballots or created faux votes. As a substitute, it entails an exercise referred to as “poll harvesting,” during which marketing campaign employees or volunteers go to potential voters, persuade them to fill out absentee ballots, after which accumulate these ballots and place them in drop bins or mail them.

One of these assortment effort is prohibited in Connecticut, however allowed in another states. Some states place limits on the variety of absentee ballots an individual can deposit or mail to others. Some say the observe is suitable, so long as the voter designates in writing whose poll they drop. A couple of don’t have any limits in any respect on this observe.

Former Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, mentioned individuals in Bridgeport — particularly older residents — had grown accustomed to letting others drop off their absentee ballots, together with earlier than the state started permitting absentee drop bins in the course of the pandemic.

“We’ve been to court docket a number of instances with the identical instances, however the proof could be very troublesome to interpret,” she mentioned. “This time there’s a actual video, which actually helps the court docket resolve whether or not new elections ought to be held.”

She worries that individuals will see Bridgeport’s downside as proof of fraud occurring elsewhere.

“There are lots of conspiracy theories on the market, however for years, we have had examine after examine telling us that does not occur,” Merrill mentioned.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk raised considerations Thursday about potential election fraud outdoors of Bridgeport on his social media platform X, previously referred to as Twitter.

“What occurred right here is past doubt,” he wrote. “The one query is how widespread it’s.”

A Connecticut decide issued his ruling simply six days earlier than the final election, making a complicated situation during which Bridgeport voters would resolve the end result of the mayoral election on Nov. 7, after which probably be requested to return to the polls on an unspecified date to vote within the election. New Democratic Main.

The Democrat who seemed to be shedding to Ganim within the mayoral major, John Gomez, the town’s former chief administrative officer, will likely be on the poll once more within the basic election as an unaffiliated candidate. On Thursday, he urged individuals to go to the polls and vote for him subsequent week, saying his victory would make the first situation moot.

The Related Press is not going to announce the winner of the final election till all authorized points and challenges associated to the first are totally resolved.

The decide gave legal professionals within the case 10 days to seek the advice of with election officers a couple of potential date for the brand new major. Bridgeport metropolis lawyer Mark Anastasi mentioned Thursday in a press release that his workplace is reviewing the decide’s determination and “all authorized choices out there to us.”

The state Election Enforcement Fee is investigating complaints associated to the latest mayoral major. She additionally made prison referrals concerning Ghanem’s 2019 major and absentee ballots to state prosecutors.

Simply final 12 months, a decide ordered a brand new Democratic major for a Bridgeport state consultant race after complaints of mishandling of absentee ballots, safety doubts after a recount and weeks of litigation.

In 2017, a decide ordered a brand new Democratic major for Metropolis Council in Bridgeport after one absentee poll was found throughout a recount and determined the race. The decide, who acknowledged “irregularities” within the primaries, additionally appointed a lawyer to supervise the brand new primaries and basic elections.

Authorities funding to nominate an impartial election observer was lately finalized Bridgeport, which can “detect and stop irregularities and irregularities” within the Nov. 7 municipal election and the 2024 state election. Nonetheless, the Secretary of State’s workplace says it has solely acquired a handful of purposes and has not but employed anybody for the place for 2 years. As a substitute, a short lived observer was appointed.

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