Connecticut judge sets new primary date for mayor's race tainted by alleged ballot box stuffing

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut judge has set Jan. 23 as the date for a new Democratic primary election in the Bridgeport mayor's race after having tossed out the September election results because of alleged ballot box stuffing.

Judge William Clark issued the order late Friday afternoon after Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes agreed on the Jan. 23 date. Clark also ruled a new general election, if needed, would be held Feb. 27.

Clark's order also includes specific procedures to be followed in the new primary, including making absentee ballot applications available on Dec. 29 and a new safeguard requiring the town clerk to stamp each absentee ballot received through drop boxes with the words “Drop Box.”

The judge ordered a new primary earlier this month, citing surveillance videos of Ganim supporters stuffing what appeared to be multiple absentee ballots into outdoor collection boxes for the Sept. 12 primary. Two women seen in the videos were summoned to court to explain, but they invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions.

Ganim beat Gomes in the primary by 251 votes out of nearly 8,200 cast. Gomes won the in-person voting count, but Ganim pulled ahead during the absentee ballot count. The result helped fuel skepticism about the security of U.S. elections, as well as conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. Gomes then filed his successful lawsuit challenging the election.

Ganim went on to narrowly win the Nov. 7 general election, which the judge could not stop because of state law.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission is currently investigating the allegations of ballot-stuffing, as well as other possible improprieties.

Ganim has repeatedly denied any knowledge of wrongdoing related to the absentee ballots. His first run as mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city, was interrupted when he was convicted of corruption and served seven years in prison. He won his old job back in 2015 after his release from prison.