BRIDGEPORT — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill recommends an investigation into absentee ballot irregularities uncovered in a Hearst Connecticut Media report published Thursday.
“The allegations contained in the Connecticut Post story are serious enough to warrant a comprehensive investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Committee,” said Merrill, in a statement. Her referral now goes to the SEEC. “Although my office does not have authority to investigate allegations, we stand ready to assist SEEC in any way we can. I intend to use the full authority granted to my office to ensure that free and fair elections are held in Bridgeport, and across Connecticut, on November 5th.”
In a letter from Merrill to SEEC Executive Director Michael J. Brandi on Friday, she states, “We are referring to your office certain allegations revealed by the citizens of Bridgeport during the Democratic Primary … Statements by members of the public raise concerns that should be investigated.”
An article published by Hearst Connecticut Media on Thursday found that some absentee voters were pressured into voting for incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim, who narrowly won the Sept. 10 election because of his lopsided take in the absentee ballot tally.
Among those whose absentee ballots were received were two convicted felons out on parole and ineligible to vote. Some voters said they received absentee ballots they didn’t ask for, and at least one person may have voted twice, once by absentee and then again in person.
In several neighborhoods, residents said strangers swarmed elderly housing complexes seeking votes, a common practice in Bridgeport elections.
The apparent voting violations have officials and advocates upset and searching for answers.
An election watchdog said she was “beyond disappointed” to hear of voter complaints.
“Over the years, I have to say, it is very disappointing when news of this sort about Bridgeport elections comes out,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut. “I’m beyond disappointed at this point.”
Quickmire called for the state’s election enforcement arm and the secretary of the state’s office to exercise authority in reining in election violations.
“Voters, particularly in Bridgeport, need to know that their elections are being conducted accurately and ethically,” she said. “We need to know that whoever is counting the ballots and counting the absentee ballots knows exactly what they’re doing.”
State Sen. Marilyn Moore, who challenged Ganim in the election, claims there was fraud in the absentee ballot process, and has announced a write-in campaign for November.
Ganim said Thursday he could not speak to the specifics of what Hearst CT found, stressing he has no personal involvement with absentee ballots. However, because of issues raised since the election, he has asked Merrill to supervise the November election in Bridgeport.
Moore said that in the days after the primary, systemic abuse of the absentee ballot system, including the intimidation of vulnerable elderly voters, has emerged throughout the city.