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Four Connecticut Democrats face charges after video showed them stuffing a ballot box and initiating a new mayoral election

Four Connecticut campaign workers have been charged with misusing absentee ballots years after their involvement in the 2019 Bridgeport Democratic mayoral primary scandal.

Charges were announced Tuesday against Bridgeport City Councilman Alfredo Castillo, 52, vice-chair Democratic Party leader Wanda Geter-Pataky, 67, and two 2019 campaign staffers, Nilsa Heredia, 61, who worked for the city’s mayor. Joe Ganim and Josephine Edmonds, 62, worked for Ganim’s main rival, Marilyn Moore. All four were charged with illegally possessing absentee ballots and each faced different charges.

Investigators say the group initially faced accusations of misusing absentee ballots during the mayoral primary in September 2019. Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim won a narrow victory in the primary, defeating John Gomes by just 251 votes.

Gomes then sued, alleging mishandling of absentee ballots and providing video footage of Geter-Pataky, a Democratic Town Committee member, repeatedly dropping absentee ballots into drop boxes or handing them to others, who then did the same.

The judge sided with Gomes, finding that the evidence was so damning that a rerun of the primary was necessary.

Wanda Geter-Pataky watches a video of herself putting postal ballots into ballot boxes in court.  He is currently one of four people to face criminal charges in the case.
Wanda Geter-Pataky watches a video of herself putting postal ballots into ballot boxes in court. He is currently one of four people to face criminal charges in the case. (Connecticut Post Office)

“The number of ballots thus improperly used is so large that it casts serious doubt on the outcome of the primary election and makes it impossible for the court to determine the lawful result of the primary election,” the high court judge wrote in November 2023.

Allegations of mishandling of absentee ballots in 2019 prompted the Secretary of State’s office to send a referral letter to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The commission then initiated a civil investigation, which resulted in a vote on June 7, 2023, to turn over the criminal evidence to the Division of Criminal Justice, which investigators say was approved by the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

“The integrity of our voting process is critical to our democracy,” said Chief State Attorney Griffin. “I appreciate the attention and time the Statewide U.S. Attorney’s Office has put into these investigations. I hope these allegations send a message that will deter future election tampering in Connecticut.”

These people were also charged with other charges related to the elections. Some were charged with witness tampering, misrepresenting absentee ballot eligibility requirements, failing to maintain an absentee ballot distribution list, and more.

All four were released on assurances that they would appear in Bridgeport Superior Court on June 24.