Former City Councilman Bob Walsh, a supporter of State Senator Ed Gomes who’s facing a difficult primary challenge from Ernie Newton and Andres Ayala, has filed a complaint with two state agencies that oversee elections enforcement “seeking an investigation into absentee ballot abuses” for the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. So far the Town Clerk’s Office has mailed more than 800 absentee ballots to voters, most of them requested by the camps of Newton and Ayala. See news release from the Gomes campaign followed by Walsh’s actual complaint he says he also sent to state and federal law enforcement officials.
Robert Walsh, former Bridgeport City Council Member and longtime political ally of State Senator Ed Gomes, announced today that he has filed a complaint with Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Chairman of the State Elections Enforcement Commission Stephen Cashman and seeking an investigation into the absentee ballot abuses taking place in the city of Bridgeport. Copies of the complaint were sent to the Chief State’s Attorney, the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut along with the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI office in the state.
“Once again the city of Bridgeport is experiencing an avalanche of Absentee Ballots applications that seem to fit a pattern that in the past has led to findings by the State Elections Enforcement Commission of abuses of the process that significantly taint the voting process, that coerce unknowing and innocent applicants to violate the law and that in the process harm other voters rights to a free and unfettered election,” Walsh claimed.
“Among these practices are voters in certain senior housing complexes, especially those on some sort of rent subsidy, are encouraged and coerced to vote by absentee when they are not legally authorized to do so. Quite often this effort comes from individuals who are employees, care givers or others viewed in positions of authority that intimidate or cause fear in residents that they might lose their residency privileges if they do not cooperate,” Walsh continued.
Walsh alleges that past practices have also shown that persons who are at a disadvantage due to advanced age and the possible onset of dementia and or language difficulties where English is not their primary language and have difficulty comprehending the legalize contained on the application form are dependent on the interpretation of the person assisting them with the form.
The complainant also noted that past practices show abuses take place when a newly registered voter seeks to vote for the first time via absentee ballot. With no prior knowledge of election laws, there individuals are “encouraged to vote by mail the first time that they vote” not realizing that such actions are illegal.
Walsh said that unfortunately, the only remedy available to the public is to file a documented complaint with the S.E.E.C. and to allow a lengthy process to take place that will not conclude until after the election results are final. Historically you will find that in the city of Bridgeport that when this process is followed by citizens with no enforcement authority whatsoever more likely than not the S.E.E.C. will find the existence of irregularities and impose fines and other actions on individuals. That is why he is seeking a proactive response and seeking penalties to the fullest extent allowed by law.
“I have been involved in way too many elections in which the ballot box has been stuffed with bogus absentee ballots,” Walsh said. “And I have felt too many times the gnawing in my gut late on election nights when victories apparent by the results on the voting machines have been stolen once the absentee results are added in. At some point some person in authority must step in and say enough is enough. Hopefully, this complaint will urged them on.”
Walsh’s letter of complaint to Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Stephen F. Cashman, chairman of the State Elections Enforcement Commission
Dear Secretary Merrill and Chairman Cashman
Please accept the following as a complaint concerning widespread absentee ballot abuse in the city of Bridgeport involving the Democratic Primary to be conducted on August 14, 2012.
As a long time party activist and former Bridgeport City Council member involved in political campaigns over the past few decades, once again we are seeing the telltale signs of an organized absentee ballot operation aimed at soliciting applications and ballots that do not meet the requirements of law.
Among the signs of such an operation are:
1) An inordinate number of applications being submitted in the city of Bridgeport as compared to other cities and town in the state. The pure number makes it impossible to adequately monitor compliance with state law.
2) A concentration of applications in certain parts of the city that cannot be statistically justified versus lack of activity in other sections of the city.
3) A concentration of applications being filed on behalf of seniors especially those living in complexes with limited access to non-residents or campaign workers.
4) A concentration of applications to certain segments of the population in which English is not the native tongue which leads to misinformation and misunderstandings as to proper and legal uses of the absentee ballot process.
5) An alarming number of applications being filed for unregistered / newly registered voters.
6) A number of applications requested by campaign workers who have previously been cited by your office for absentee ballot abuses or have been involved in campaigns with alleged improprieties.
In a city such as Bridgeport where your own investigations in the past have lead to obscene levels of corrupt practices (22 individuals fined in one election cycle in 2002), record dollar fines levied against other individuals for their involvement in elections since 2002 and the preponderance of this illegal activity occurring in Democratic Party primary elections should be enough to spur your office into action now prior to election day rather than in a reactive mode after the polls have closed.
I am urging your office to vigorously enforce state election laws in regards to absentee ballots to safeguard the sanctity of the election process and to pursue individuals involved in corrupting the process to the fullest extent of the law available to you.
As a campaign volunteer for State Senator Edwin Gomes, we have undertaken an aggressive campaign effort to identify supporters through both door-to-door canvassing and phone banking. As part of this operation our workers will routinely inquire about the voters need for an absentee ballot. We have not encountered requests anywhere near the levels that other campaigns seem to identify and collect.
Please accept this as an official complaint and a request to initiate a formal investigation into the absentee ballot solicitation practices involving the Democratic primary scheduled for August 14th, 2012. Should you have any questions or seek further information, please contact me at (203) 727-9894.