The mayor of Connecticut’s largest metropolis denied underneath oath Tuesday to debate absentee ballots with a marketing campaign volunteer who resembles a girl seen on surveillance video stuffing ballots right into a drop field a number of occasions earlier than the mayoral major.
At a court docket listening to, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim tried to distance himself from Wanda Jeter Pataki, an area Democratic official and supporter who was accused by Ganim’s opponent of absentee poll fraud in reference to Ganim’s slender victory within the September major. Jeter Pataki final week declined to say if she was the girl seen on surveillance footage making a number of journeys to the election drop field and stuffing papers inside that appeared like ballots.
Ganim additionally testified that he didn’t converse with Jeter Pataki about treating absentee ballots in another way after state election officers investigating allegations of absentee poll fraud in Ganim’s 2019 major referred her and two others with ties to his marketing campaign to state prosecutors.
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“I have never had any discussions along with her,” stated Ghanem, a Democrat. He additionally testified that he didn’t ask his paid marketing campaign workers to instruct Jeter Pataki, vice chairman of the Bridgeport Democratic Metropolis Committee, to do something in another way.
Ghanem gained the September 12 mayoral major by 251 votes out of 8,173 solid, with absentee ballots giving him his margin of victory, as occurred in 2019. His opponent, John Gomez, who’s searching for a brand new major or operating, is contesting the first. New on September 12. Announce the winner.
Ghanem instructed the court docket that he was “shocked by what appeared within the movies” launched by Gomez’s marketing campaign shortly after the primaries. Nonetheless, he stated he didn’t know whether or not Jeter Patakai really mishandled ballots. The state Election Enforcement Fee is investigating this newest major after receiving a number of complaints.
Ghanem, who was convicted of corruption throughout his first time period as mayor however received his outdated job again within the election after his launch from jail, has repeatedly denied any data of poll irregularities and has raised considerations about different movies that he says present Gomez marketing campaign employees falling to items. A number of sheets of paper much like poll papers.
Underneath Connecticut legislation, individuals utilizing a set field to vote by absentee poll should drop off their accomplished ballots themselves, or designate designated relations, police, native election officers or a caregiver to take action for them.
Gomez, who stated his marketing campaign employees adopted state legislation, is asking a choose to order a brand new major. He stated a number of movies show absentee poll fraud occurred in the course of the Sept. 12 major. Whatever the choose’s ruling, Gomez will nonetheless seem on the November poll as an impartial candidate.
Information of the Bridgeport movies unfold throughout right-wing social media platforms and on far-right media retailers, linking the controversy to claims of a stolen 2020 election.
Final week, Jeter-Patakai, at the moment suspended from her job as a metropolis corridor annex greeter, invoked her Fifth Modification proper towards self-incrimination a number of occasions somewhat than reply questions in court docket about allegations of unlawful poll field stuffing, together with whether or not It was the girl seen within the surveillance footage.
“She is abusing her Fifth Modification privilege,” her legal professional, John Golash, instructed the court docket.
Metropolis Councilwoman and present candidate Enida Martinez additionally declined final week to reply whether or not she appeared in a further set of movies that Gomez’s legal professional, William Bloss, confirmed in court docket of a girl and different individuals depositing a number of items of paper resembling absentee ballots right into a drop field. .
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Bloss stated 1,253 absentee ballots had been solid within the Sept. 12 major, however he and his workers recognized “at most” 428 people who deposited their ballots in poll drop containers after reviewing hours of surveillance video. Some movies confirmed employees visiting the containers to select up ballots, however they didn’t discover something.
Ghanem famous that it was his workplace that labored to make sure absentee poll drop containers — initially allowed in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic — had been positioned in view of city-owned surveillance cameras for safety functions. He instructed reporters outdoors the courtroom that he has since carried out “extra stringent measures” on absentee voting in mild of the movies, however insisted that absentee ballots are essential in a metropolis with a big aged and disabled inhabitants.
“I wish to ensure everybody will get their vote out and that their vote issues,” he stated.
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The court docket session is scheduled to renew on Thursday. That is when Bloss is anticipated to wrap up his case, permitting the varied protection attorneys to start presenting their arguments. Decide William Clark stated he hoped to problem a choice in about two weeks.