A ballot drop box in Connecticut.
A ballot drop box in Connecticut. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Democratic voters in Bridgeport will head to the polls again on Jan. 23 if a judge signs off on a proposed schedule for a court-ordered second mayoral primary election resulting from evidence that absentee ballots were mishandled during the first primary in September.

Judge William Clark is reviewing the proposal, drafted by the secretary of the state’s office, setting the date for the new primary between Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes, who sued city officials to overturn his narrow loss to Ganim during the first primary when video evidence suggested Ganim supporters handled the ballots of multiple voters in violation of state law.

“The new primary and the following primary schedule are necessary due to the Court’s findings that absentee ballots were mishandled in violation of General Statutes § 9-140b during the primary that occurred on September 12, 2023, the result of such primary might have been different without the violations, and the Court is unable to determine the result of such primary,” the proposed order reads.

Ballots for the new primary will feature only Ganim and Gomes, according to the order. If Gomes emerges as the nominee during the new primary, a second general election will be held on Feb. 27. Unofficial results from last week’s general election found Ganim leading Gomes by 179 votes in a four-way contest, though the expectation of a second primary was already known during that election.

The proposed order calls on city officials to make absentee ballot applications available beginning on Dec. 29, giving voters a shorter window to apply for ballots. The order also includes a requirement that the city put serial numbers on ballot applications in cases where an individual requires five or more applications.

Another proposed requirement calls for the town clerk to stamp each absentee ballot deposited in a drop box with the phrase “Drop Box” as well as his name and the date and time the ballot was received.

Gomes Attorney Bill Bloss stated, “We are pleased that the Secretary of the State has agreed that important checks to ensure fair casting of absentee ballots will be implemented for the first time.”

The order permits both Ganim and Gomes to raise donations of up to $1,000 per person for the new primary.

The judge’s proposed order comes one week after Ganim held a press conference during which he urged Gomes to withdraw his complaint.

“After 14,000 people came out in a voter election in Bridgeport – a general election that was participated in by all parties – and the voters have spoken,” Ganim said.

Meanwhile, Gomes has indicated he has no plans to abandon his complaint.

“We eagerly anticipate exercising our right to a new primary, as granted by the court order on November 1,” Gomes wrote in a message to supporters last week.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated the judge had signed off on the new schedule. As of Thursday, the proposed order was still under review.