BRIDGEPORT – City election officials released an official breakdown of the court-ordered Democratic mayoral primary election results on Thursday, reporting that Mayor Joe Ganim received about 82 percent more votes by absentee ballot than his opponent.
According to the city document – which was distributed by the Bridgeport Registrar of Voters on Thursday – absentee ballots accounted for about 27 percent of Ganim’s total votes, and for about 15 percent of John Gomes’s total votes.
Ganim – who won the Tuesday do-over election by 1,077 votes – received a total of 1,353 votes by absentee ballot, compared to Gomes’s 568.
Still, the total amount of absentee ballot votes in the Tuesday primary dropped by about 19 percent compared to the original Sept. 12 primary – from 2,324 in September to 1,921 in January.
In-person turnout was higher the second time around, however, with a 17 percent jump at the polls over September.
In a Thursday email, the Ganim campaign attributed the drop in absentee ballot use to the mayor’s efforts to bring voters out to their polling stations, and the Secretary of the State’s safeguards.
“Many voters who were eligible to vote by absentee ballot chose to vote in person this time, which likely explains the decrease in absentee voting. We’re grateful to the Secretary of State and our election monitors for all that they did to put in safeguards and ensure the integrity of the election,” the campaign wrote in a Thursday email.
Soon after Ganim won the original primary election in September by 251 votes, Gomes filed a lawsuit against city and state election officials, claiming that members of the Ganim campaign committed absentee ballot fraud. In court, the challenger presented city security camera footage that seemingly showed two Ganim supporters stuffing stacks of ballots into city dropboxes in the weeks leading up to the September primary, prompting Judge William Clark to order the new election for Jan. 23.
In an attempt to avoid additional violations, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas hired two election monitors to train city staff and watch over the primary. And on Jan. 8, Thomas encouraged concerned voters to cast their ballots in person rather than by absentee ballot to avoid “intimidation” by campaign workers.
But on Jan. 19, Ganim urged Thomas’s office to look into alleged fraud by the Gomes campaign. The mayor claimed that his opponent’s volunteers had purposefully ignored state guidance and unlawfully distributed 1,400 absentee ballot applications ahead of the Tuesday election.
Despite efforts by Town Clerk Charlie Stallworth to get the 1,400 applications discounted in the final tally, Clark ultimately ruled that the votes should still be counted.
But even with the validated applications, Gomes’s absentee ballot count dropped more than Ganim’s count in the new primary. While the mayor felt a 13 percent drop in absentee votes this week, Gomes’s absentee votes decreased by 31 percent compared to September.
Asked about the drop in absentee ballot use, the Gomes campaign said in a Thursday email there could be numerous reasons for the decline.
“It is difficult to state definitively whether advocacy for in-person voting from the Office of the Secretary of the State or the guardrails including the shortened time of availability of absentee ballot applications in Judge Clark’s Order or a combination of both played a factor in the decrease of returned absentee ballots in Tuesday’s Primary,” the Gomes campaign said.
Along with ordering the Tuesday primary and a potential new general election for Feb. 27, Clark approved the Secretary of the State’s November request to make absentee ballots available beginning Dec. 29 rather than the city’s request for Dec. 1.
Clark also ruled that candidates could request copies of absentee ballot applications, logs and envelopes for inspection for the new elections. On Wednesday, Gomes’s legal counsel made the request, and Clark later approved it, requiring that the Registrar of Voters and a state-designated moderator be present for examination.
According to Thomas’s office, election officials must provide Gomes with copies of the absentee ballot materials by 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26.