4 Connecticut Democrat Campaign Officials Charged with Ballot Fraud

Four Democrat campaign officials have been charged in a ballot fraud case related to the 2019 Bridgeport, Connecticut, mayoral primary race, prosecutors announced.

Wanda Geter-Pataky, a city hall employee and vice chairwoman of the Bridgeport Democrat Town Committee, and City Councilor Alfredo Castillo were the two officials charged Tuesday, along with Nilsa Heredia and Josephine Edmonds, for allegedly committing fraud. 

Three defendants supported Mayor Joe Ganim (D), while Edmonds supported his primary opponent, State Sen. Marilyn Moore (D), according to Connecticut Public Radio.

Geter-Pataky allegedly failed to sign as an assister on an absentee ballot application that she had filled out on behalf of a prospective voter and “misrepresented eligibility requirements” for voting by absentee ballot, Connecticut’s Division of Crime and Justice announced in a press release

In “misrepresenting” the requirements, the Democrat official allegedly instructed a citizen to not vote in person, saying she would come pick up her absentee ballot instead. 

“The citizen later told SEEC [State Elections Enforcement Commission] investigators that the defendant told her not to speak to anyone about the matter,” prosecutors said. 

As the investigation into the 2019 primary was underway, more allegations of misconduct against Geter-Pataky arose after a video surfaced of her appearing to stuff papers into a ballot drop box when Ganim ran for reelection in 2023, the CT Examiner reported. A separate investigation for that incident is still underway. 

“That footage prompted a state Superior Court judge to overturn the initial round of elections,” the outlet reported, though Ganim went on to win the race, anyway. 

Bridgeport police video showing city employee Wanda Geter-Pataky placing absentee ballots into an election drop box outside the Margaret Morton Government Center (Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool)

In 2019, Heredia allegedly told prospective voters to select a certain candidate on their absentee ballots and is also accused of misrepresenting eligibility requirements. 

Heredia also admitted to SEEC investigators that she “did not submit an absentee ballot distribution list to the City of Bridgeport Clerk’s Office,” the press release noted.

As for Castillo, investigators have accused him of failing to maintain an absentee ballot distribution list, misrepresenting eligibility requirements for voting by absentee ballot, and failing to sign as an assister on an absentee ballot application.

According to an October 2021 deposition with the SEEC, Castillo denied helping the prospective voter fill out the application but later admitted that he had. 

Edmonds is accused of being present when four voters filled out their absentee ballots in their home and taking the ballots with her. 

She also allegedly failed to “maintain an absentee ballot distribution list” and tampered with a witness “for having told her not to testify truthfully in court,” the press release stated. 

Ganim won the 2019 primary with a heavily lopsided absentee margin after losing to Moore 4,721 to 4,337 at the polls “but prevailing in the absentee ballot count 967 to 313,” CT Insider reported

Ganim claimed he had no knowledge of the investigation or case in a statement that Connecticut Public Radio obtained.

“We only learned through the media that individuals from both 2019 mayoral primary campaigns have been charged with election violations. We have not been provided with any details other than what is contained in media reports,” the mayor said.

Ganim himself was also convicted on federal corruption charges in 2003 during an earlier stint as mayor, the New York Times reported

Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mayor Joe Ganim testifies during a hearing at Bridgeport Superior Court on October 17, 2023. (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)

Moore told the outlet that fraud was not the “norm” for her campaign but apparently was for Ganim’s.

“It’s not something that I encouraged or fostered or was the norm in my campaign,” she said. “But for the other campaign, it was a norm for people to do that.”

“Integrity of our voting process is vital to our democracy,” Chief State’s Attorney Patrick J. Griffin said in the Division of Criminal Justice press release. “I appreciate the attention and time the Statewide Prosecution Bureau put into these investigations. I hope these prosecutions will send a message that deters tampering with election results in the future in Connecticut.”

All four defendants were released from custody and are due to appear back in court on June 24.

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