Final briefs will be filed this week with Superior Court Judge Barry Stevens who’s heard two weeks of testimony regarding a challenge to the results of the September 10 Democratic primary won by Mayor Joe Ganim by 270 votes. The judge could issue a decision late this week.
State Senator Marilyn Moore won the overall machine total but lost as a result of the absentee ballot count.
The complaint was brought with the assistance of Bridgeport Generation Now Votes whose leadership supports Moore for mayor. Attorneys Prerna Rao and Jonathan Shapiro represent the plaintiffs while Deputy City Attorney John Bohannan is the lead attorney for the city.
The plaintiffs assert absentee ballot irregularities altered the outcome, and as a result a mistake in the counting of the ballots, something that Bohannon, on behalf of the city, refutes. Plaintiffs are asking for a new Democratic primary.
This case is uncharted territory for a Bridgeport elections complaint on several levels. For one thing, no candidate on the Democratic ballot September 10, including Moore, is contesting the results in court.
A number of Democrats who won on the machines assert why are we being roped into this complaint?
Testimony revealed that Bridgeport Generation Now Votes leadership pulled together the allegations and three city electors were recruited to serve as plaintiffs. On the first day of testimony some witnesses in the lawsuit calling for a new Democratic primary said they had help filling out absentee ballot applications, something that is legal. Assisting someone with an absentee ballot is illegal, with a few exceptions such as help from an immediate family member.
One of the three plaintiffs Annette Goodridge was bewildered why she was in the courtroom. She also testified that she filled out and gave her absentee ballot to Josephine Edmonds, a Moore supporter so in at least one example the testimony undercuts the lawsuit’s argument that this was a one-sided systematic effort to bag absentee ballots.
According to testimony, witnesses said they voted for the person they wanted to vote for and were not pressured to vote otherwise. No one said their vote wasn’t counted.
It’s a high burden to persuade a judge to overturn the results of an election. Still, Judge Stevens has been deferential in the exhibits he’s allowed to the protests of the defense. At the very least the judge is giving the plaintiffs their days and weeks in court, adding gravity–or consternation, depending on the sides–to the assertions.
Meanwhile, the Nov. 5 general election is underway–no one has asked for a delay in that vote–voting by absentee ballot has begun, candidates are spending campaign money, Republicans who are not party to the lawsuit wonder, what about us?
Everyone can predict how Judge Stevens will rule three weeks from the general election, but no one knows except the judge.
So if he rules for the defense that’s pretty much it, on to Nov. 5. If he rules for the plaintiffs it becomes chaotic because it would be impossible to hold a new primary in advance of Nov. 5, based on state statute guidelines dictating the election calendar. Pull out the dogsleds because the general election would be pushed out to cold and messy winter.
In that occurrence the city could ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to hear an expedited appeal. The Supremes could take it up or say no, we’ll hear this thing in the regular course of business that could take a year.
The last time the results of a Democratic primary were challenged–and rejected–in court was 2007 when State Senator Bill Finch defeated State Rep. Chris Caruso for mayor. Finch defeated Caruso by 270 votes, yes the same number of Ganim’s certified win.
Having fun yet?