The absentee ballot chaos involving charges, counter charges, complaints filed with state and federal agencies appears to have an impact on the number of returned ballots to the Town Clerk’s Office. As of Monday afternoon about 900 ballots had been received by the office out of about 2,700 processed. Two more days are available for return ballots, but political operatives from the campaign camps say they now project fewer returned ballots by absentee than originally projected. Still, the venom among campaign rivals continues on the verge of Wednesday’s Democratic primary for mayor and other offices.
The majority of absentee ballot action is coming from the camps of Bill Finch and Joe Ganim, both of whom have leveled charges against each other for impropriety. Meanwhile operatives for Mary-Jane Foster are lashing out at both those camps claiming absentee ballot abuses, but particularly Finch whose campaign operation is trying to marginalize Foster’s base of support in Black Rock claiming a vote for Foster is a vote for Ganim.
“Bridgeport has never seen this level of absentee ballot abuse–it is clear that the Finch campaign is realizing voters are looking for an honest choice for change and is panicking,” says Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group that is backing Foster. “I am hopeful that federal authorities will finally step in to prosecute this abuse and protect the integrity of the vote since state regulators continue to enable fraudulent voting in Bridgeport.”
This all started a few weeks ago when Democratic Registrar Sandi Ayala ordered supervised balloting at a few dozen locations that received a high volume of absentee ballot requests including health care facilities, senior citizen buildings and even the P.T. Barnum housing project. Supervised balloting is allowed by state law, on designated premises, to provide a check against electors being unduly influenced in the absentee ballot voting process.
Political operatives blanketed areas with absentee ballot applications they dropped off to the Town Clerk’s office for processing by mail. When supervised balloting is ordered, the ballots are set aside to be distributed to those electors who may fill them out at the designated locations prior to primary day.
This is where things get a little sticky. State statute provides that registrars oversee supervised balloting with the processing of ballots handled by town clerks. Lawyers for the city and state last week prevailed upon Town Clerk Alma Maya to mail hundreds of ballots slated for supervision claiming time was of the essence because not all supervised balloting locations had been scheduled. Ayala asserted they had jumped the gun, her timeline for scheduled supervised balloting was proper under state statute.
Meanwhile, all three campaign camps have filed elections complaints with state and federal agencies.
Four years ago more than 800 votes were cast by absentee in the mayoral primary between Finch and Foster. But since then political operatives have ramped up efforts to produce votes by absentee. If one side is doing it, then a competitor fundamentally decides to weigh in hard as well to limit an absentee ballot drubbing.
The Foster campaign has taken a different approach in lieu of a massive absentee ballot operation, scream from the mountaintops in hope to give pause to any potential absentee ballot cheats.