Bridgeport is in a perpetual state of disenfranchisement. People refuse to participate in our local democracy because they know the game is rigged.
Since June of 2019, Bridgeport Generation Now Votes has been out in the streets, at community events, and in senior housing, talking with voters about the issues that matter to them. We hear often that voters feel their voice – and their vote – doesn’t matter.
Bridgeporters know that absentee ballot abuse is real. They want to talk about it – and they want to end it! Going back generations, people running for office in Bridgeport will send someone around to public and senior housing to persuade residents to vote using an absentee ballot – even if they aren’t eligible for one.
And Bridgeport has a long and well-documented history of election interference and fraud, with an alarming number of fines levied by the Secretary of State’s office. The fines, however, do not work. We see absentee ballot abuse and misuse in every single municipal election. It is a tactic used by our local Democratic Party to rig and steal elections.
On Monday, September 16th, 2019, PT Partners and Bridgeport Generation Now Votes came together to review the election results from our September 10 primary election.
In the 2019 Democratic primary election, multiple Line A candidates lost at the polls but won through absentee ballot votes. This included the endorsed Democratic mayoral candidate and incumbent, Joseph P. Ganim. Mayor Ganim lost at the polls gathering 4,372 machine votes to State Senator Marilyn Moore’s 4,731 machine votes. Mayor Ganim won the absentee ballot votes, however, with 931 absentee ballots cast for him compared with only 303 absentee ballots cast for Senator Moore. Therefore, while Mayor Ganim won this primary by 270 votes total, this raised some immediate questions to observers across the state.
Why did these two voting populations – voters at the polls versus voters using absentee ballots – behave so differently? Only 48% of voters at the polls voted for Ganim. Yet 75% of voters who voted using an absentee ballot voted for him. What caused this disparity?
Also, compared with other cities across the state, Bridgeport has an unusually high percentage of absentee ballot voters. In the New Haven Democratic primary held on the same day, absentee ballots were only 5% of total votes cast. But in Bridgeport, they account for 13% of all votes cast. Again, what caused this disparity?
For many people in Bridgeport, these results pointed to – yet again – abnormalities and irregularities surrounding the use of absentee ballots. And that is when Bridgeporters decided to take matters into our own hands.
Bridgeport Generation Now Votes and PT Partners spoke with voters who voted by, or engaged in, the absentee ballot process, according to the Town Clerk records. We created a protocol designed to reduce and eliminate bias, using established methodologies and research. We conducted highly structured interviews, using a script that pulled questions directly from the absentee ballot application and the state statutes. And we targeted the districts in Bridgeport – the 130th, 131st, 132nd, and 137th – where the Line A versus Line B absentee ballot disparities were the greatest.
Between Tuesday, September 17th and Sunday, September 22nd, we spoke with and interviewed over 50 absentee ballot voters. Of those 50+ voters, many share with us their personal experience with the process of voting by absentee ballot in Bridgeport. We uncovered patterns of behavior that show repeated violations of the laws regarding the absentee ballot process.
Some of the patterns that emerged are:
- Non-designees are soliciting voters to vote by AB* and are not informing them of the law/qualifications
- Non-designees are soliciting non-English speakers to vote by AB and are not informing them of laws/qualifications in their own language
- Non-designees are completing entire AB applications for the voter and voter just signs it
- Voter has never completed an AB application, yet AB comes in the mail
- Non-designees are taking the actual AB from the voter.
The list goes on and on. Of our 25 sworn statements taken from people who voted by Absentee Ballot, 60% of respondents did not qualify to vote using an absentee ballot. We uncovered at least 30 patterns of behaviors by campaign workers, city officials, and Line A candidates that qualify as abusing voters and the absentee ballot process. Our canvass uncovered a systematic targeting and manipulation of some of our most vulnerable citizens; low-income, disabled, elderly, and monolingual Spanish speakers.
Using research models and careful methodology, our findings should be highly replicable. We set out on this canvass trying to answer our questions without knowing what we would find. We also set out without knowing that Hearst Media was also investigating this same set of questions. The fact that multiple teams – acting independently – came to similar conclusions only strengthens the evidence we have gathered over the last week.
Why a Lawsuit?
Our canvas uncovered patterns of behavior that show repeated violations of the laws regarding the absentee ballot process. These patterns cast serious doubts on the integrity of the 2019 Democratic primary election results. Some of the voters who we spoke with felt aggrieved by what they experienced, and by what we have witnessed, and are ready to take their grievances to court. Bridgeport Generation Now Votes is helping these voters file suit.
Bridgeport Generation Now Votes remains committed to standing in solidarity with the voters – and the people – of Bridgeport to demand free and fair elections.
The Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are three electors of the City of Bridgeport: Beth Lazar, Annette Goodridge, and Vanessa Liles. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs are aggrieved by a ruling of an election official in connection with a Democratic Primary held on September 10th, 2019, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Connecticut General Statutes § 9-423, and further aggrieved by violations of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 9-355, 9-357 through 9-361, inclusive, and/or 9-364a.
Based on the findings of our canvas, the lawsuit asked the court to do the following:
- Set aside the results of the Democratic Primary
- Order a new Special Primary Election for all candidates, including but not limited to the mayoral primary
- Order that the Democratic Primary absentee voting tabulators be unlocked, any ballot boxes, if any, be opened for inspection, and any application materials and/or affidavits relevant to absentee voting be made available for inspection; and
- Order all additional relief in law or equity as the court may find just and equitable
Why did the Plaintiffs sue these Defendants?
The Defendants in this lawsuit are eight City Election Officials and/or endorsed Democratic candidates: Joseph P. Ganim, Mayoral Candidate, Charles D. Clemons, Jr, Town Clerk, Santa I. Ayala, Democratic Registrar, James Mullen, Head Moderator, Thomas Errichetti, Head Absentee Ballot Moderator, Patricia A. Howard, Democratic Deputy Registrar, Lydia Martinez, City Clerk, and Jorge Cruz, Candidate for City Counsel, 131st District
The Plaintiffs sued these defendants to compel them to set aside the results of the 2019 Democratic Primary and to order a new Special Primary Election for all candidates, including but not limited to the mayoral primary.
What Can I Do?
We are grateful to the people who spoke their truth about their experience with the absentee ballot process during the September 10th primary election.
Because of them, we were able to uncover many violations in the Absentee Ballot process, which gives ALL residents and citizens of Bridgeport doubt about the truth of the primary results and the integrity of our local elections. Given what we’ve found, Bridgeporters committed to truth and transparency stood with us to call for a new election!
Bridgeport Generation Now Votes
Mini-Documentary by Daniel Recinos:
“Let’s End Absentee Ballot Abuse in Bridgeport”
Bridgeport Generation Now Petition:
End Absentee Ballot Abuse in Bridgeport Petition (+1,000 paper signatures and counting!)
Bridgeport Generation Now Research:
Absentee Ballot Policy & Research (from 2017)
“Lawsuit seeks Bridgeport primary do over,” Brian Lockhart, Connecticut Post, 9/23/19
“Records subpoenaed in Bridgeport mayoral primary,” Mark Pazniokas, CT Mirror, 9/23/19
“State election officials to consider Bridgeport ballot probe,” Connecticut Post, 9/21/19
“6 things to know about Hearst CT’s absentee ballot probe,” Connecticut Post, 9/24/19
“Bridgeport absentees case bares similarities to 1986 investigation,” Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post, 9/23/19
“Absentees critical part of Ganim campaign strategy,” Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post, 9/21/19
“Elections commission to probe bridgeport absentee ballot fraud,” Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post, 9/21/19
“Long history of absentee ballot chaos, complaints in Bridgeport,” Igancio Laguarda, Connecticut Post, 9/19/19
“Bridgeport absentee voting rife with irregularities, Hearst CT probe reveals,” Connecticut Post, 9/19/19
“LWV concerned about Bridgeport absentee ballots before election,” Tara O’Neill, Connecticut Post, 9/13/19
“Questions about Bridgeport primary results pile up,” Connecticut Post, 9/12/19
“Opinion: Reform voting laws to clean up absentee ballots,” Peter Finch, 9/16/19
“Letter: Absentee ballot issues nothing new in Bridgeport,” Lynda Shannon Bluestein, 9/22/19