Gomes campaign video screenshot
This is a screengrab from a video posted to Facebook by an account called “John Gomes for Mayor,” alleging that multiple illegal absentee ballots were deposited into a ballot box. See the full video below. Credit: Screengrab / John Gomes for Mayor / John Gomes for Mayor

Attorneys for Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes argued in a legal brief Wednesday that a Superior Court judge had adequate evidence of absentee ballot fraud to overturn his September primary loss to Democratic Mayor Joe Ganim.

“The video evidence, exhibits and testimony prove election fraud on a scale not seen in Connecticut—or anywhere else in the country—in recent history,” attorneys William Bloss and Christopher Mattei wrote. “Not only does the record prove election tampering, it was caught on video.”

The brief, and counter filings by Town Clark Charles Clemons, Jr., and Democratic Registrar of Voters Patricia Howard, comes as Judge William Clark considers Gomes’ request that he either order a new primary or declare Gomes the winner in light of evidence of absentee ballot harvesting based in part on surveillance videos apparently showing Ganim supporters Wanda Geter-Pataky and Eneida Martinez making several trips to deposit items in ballot drop boxes.

The court heard several days of testimony in the case earlier this month and Clark allowed the parties to submit post-hearing briefs as he weighs overturning Ganim’s 251-vote victory ahead of next month’s general election. Regardless of the judge’s decision, Gomes will appear on Bridgeport’s general election ballot as an Independent Party candidate. 

Gomes’ argument rests partly on state law, which generally requires that voters return their own absentee ballots aside from some limited exceptions that allow for people like family members, police or caregivers to return the ballots in certain cases.

“Here, the evidence of multiple violations of [state law] by mass ballot drops is plain,” Bloss wrote. “The video – and the rest of the record – speaks for itself. If it is defendants’ position that without proof that Geter-Pataky, Martinez and the others were not designees of each of the persons whose ballots they returned the court cannot find a violation of the law, that argument is nonsensical.”

In their own post-hearing filing, attorneys for Bridgeport officials Clemons and Howard argued that Gomes’ lawyers had failed to provide evidence that put the outcome of the primary election in serious doubt. 

“[Gomes] has offered no evidence that any absentee ballot cast was improper or fraudulent,” attorneys Richard Buturla and John Bailey Kennelly wrote. “Not one voter testified that their ballot did not reflect their vote. Not one voter testified that an improper designee brought their ballot to any ballot collection box. Not one voter testified that his or her ballot was mishandled. Not one voter.” 

With less than two weeks before the general election, ordering a new primary would cause serious disruption to the electoral process, they argued, adding that the Nov. 7 election would still take place followed by a new primary and new general election.

“This would unfairly tax the electorate essentially twice, first by throwing out thousands of legitimate votes, and then by conducting ultimately four elections… at great expense to the public,” they wrote.

An attorney for Ganim, who is also being sued as part of the lawsuit and who testified before the court last week, filed notice Wednesday that the mayor adopted the brief filed by Clemons and Howard.

The ballot fraud allegations at issue in the case are also currently under investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Meanwhile, the surveillance videos that have served as critical evidence in the lawsuit have prompted other Connecticut towns to reevaluate the placement of their absentee ballot drop boxes to ensure they are on camera.