Bad News, Good News, Bad News, Good News, Bad News from Bridgeport

An editorial in the CT Post highlighting the excitement surrounding the election, the attention, and the hijinks: A chance for Bridgeport Democrats to weigh in <read>

 That there will be a Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday is a good thing for the city of Bridgeport.

Pick your favorite, but the exchange of ideas, suggestions, accusations, recriminations and so on between Mayor Bill Finch and challenger Mary-Jane Foster has put some energy in the air in a city that needs every bit of energy it can muster.

There are indeed ways to measure that energy.

Consider this: In 2007, when Christopher Caruso, a popular legislator from the North End of the city, challenged Finch, 493 absentee ballots were cast in the mayoral primary. Finch won that contest, incidentally, by fewer than 300 votes.

As of Friday, the Bridgeport Town Clerk’s office had received 1,200 applications for absentee ballots, and 756 executed ballots had been returned.

 The good news? There’s plenty of interest.

The potential bad news? All those absentee ballots should make fans of fair elections just a little nervous.

[good news] So it’s a pleasing development that Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has said she’ll have a presence in Bridgeport on Tuesday for the 2011 version of the Democratic mayoral primary.

The Post covered and we commented on some absentee ballot allegations earlier this week: Absentee Fraud in Bridgeport? Who could have imagined? <read>  Now the Post covers more, the same day as the editorial: Bridgeport absentee ballots becoming focus of election complaints  <read>

[more bad news] Jason Bartlett, Foster’s campaign manager, said that Councilwoman Lydia N. Martinez, D-137, illegally assisted several elderly residents of Harborview Towers in filling out their absentee ballots. Martinez could not be reached for comment.

According to Bartlett, Martinez was at Harborview Towers collecting filled-in absentee ballots, which would be illegal under state law. The law requires that an absentee ballot can only be touched by a voter, a letter carrier, a police officer, a caretaker or an immediate family member. Bartlett said that this is “clearly illegal” activity, particularly because Martinez is a city council candidate.

Harborview Towers, on the city’s East Side, is a high-rise public housing complex that caters mostly to elderly and disabled residents.

Bartlett said that Martinez was also seen by Foster campaign workers engaged in similar activities in an apartment building on Grant Street, in the East End.

The Foster camp additionally charged that some Finch campaign workers were using the fact that the primary had to be rescheduled from Sept. 13 to Sept. 27 to confuse voters who support Foster.

“They’re taking advantage of the rescheduled primary by sending known Foster supporters second and third absentee ballot application forms. They’re trying to confuse them into voting twice, which would invalidate their vote,” he said. “We’ve asked that people from the secretary of the state’s office come down and safeguard the absentee ballot process.”

We have no way of substantiating or refuting the allegations.  There is one more piece of bad news, as we commented on the Editorial, including a quote from the article:

More bad news, the SOTS presence will not provide confidence with regard to Absentee Ballots. Oooops the law [passed just this year to fix the problems in Bridgeport] said nothing about the SOTS being able to walk into central absentee ballot counting operations, only polling places. (Of course like any citizen they can watch the AB operation from a distance). In the words of Cindi Rice “Who could have imagined…”

According to a CTPost article yesterday:

“But Av Harris, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said that her office’s authority over absentee ballots is very limited, adding that complaints on absentee irregularities must be heard by the state Elections Enforcement Commission and also the courts.”

Update: More problems, documented this time. Was it fraud, mismanagement, or incompetence? Who knows for sure? Finch campaign mails incorrect voting locations to some voters <read>

“The Finch campaign sent a mailing out last week to a couple hundred newly registered voters in an attempt to boost voter participation and educate these voters about the upcoming primary election and the mayor’s record of progress,” Breslin said in an email. “The campaign was also trying to educate voters about where to vote on Election Day, as many of these voters are first-time voters in Bridgeport. Unfortunately, this limited list of new voters included some inaccurate polling locations.”

The Connecticut Post discovered one instance in which a resident of developer Phil Kuchma’s Fairfield Avenue complex, just blocks away from City Hall, received a mailing informing the resident that Blackham School was her polling place.

A day or two later, an identical mailing arrived. The only difference in the mailing was the switching of the words Blackham School for City Hall.

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