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A Superior Court judge is scheduled to resume reviewing absentee voter logs today as he considers an expanded challenge to the outcome of the Bridgeport primary vote. This, as data shows the percentage of votes cast as absentee ballots in municipal primaries this year was significantly higher in Bridgeport than anywhere else in the state.

According to data from the Secretary of the State’s office, the average percentage of votes cast as absentee ballots in Democratic municipal primary races this year was 7.67%. 1,534 absentee ballots were submitted in Bridgeport’s Democratic primary between Mayor Joseph P. Ganim and State Sen. Marilyn Moore, which was 13.01% of the 10,691 total votes cast.

By contrast, during the 2018 general election the percentage of votes cast by absentee in Bridgeport fell beneath the state average. 4.97% of votes in Bridgeport were cast as absentee ballots, compared to the state average of 6.05%.

Other large cities were much closer to the state average in the 2019 primary. 5.41% of votes were cast by absentee ballot in New Haven, and 8.01% were cast by absentee ballot in Hartford. Both cities had contentious, high-profile primaries.

Bridgeport also had a higher percentage of absentee ballots counted in its last primary election in 2015. Out of 12,123 votes cast, 1,230, or 10.14%, were cast by absentee ballot.

Moore won the machine vote, or votes cast at polling places the day of Bridgeport’s 2019 primary, but a lopsided margin for Ganim among absentee votes won the incumbent mayor the race. An investigation by Hearst Media reporters found irregularities such as residents who felt pressured to vote for Ganim, dozens of discrepancies between the voter records and the ballots, and voters who received ballots who didn’t remember requesting them.

The role of absentee ballots in Bridgeport’s primary are the subject of a State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) investigation and a lawsuit.

Hearst Connecticut Media reported Thursday that Superior Court Judge Barry Stevens is allowing an expanded challenge to the vote in Bridgeport by local activists.

Stevens noted that some votes were cast by people who did not meet the strict requirements for absentee ballots: illness, military service and being out of town on the date of the primary, among others.

“The criteria does not include not wanting to go physically and voting in the voting booth,” Stevens said. “In this regard, their absentee ballots …  should not have been submitted.”

Stevens had reviewed and approved about half of the 216 pages of names of voters who voted despite state law that might have required their ballots be thrown out. He will consider the second half of the list Friday afternoon, then hear final arguments, according to Hearst Connecticut Media.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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