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Another Connecticut Democrat Faces Accusations Over Absentee Ballots

 July 5, 2024

The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) in Connecticut has issued a criminal referral for Bridgeport City Councilwoman Maria Pereira regarding allegations of mishandling absentee ballots in the 2023 Democratic primary.

This development intensifies concerns around absentee ballot integrity in Bridgeport, a city already marred by similar allegations against other Democratic officials, as The Blaze reports.

Absentee Ballots Tip Election in Pereira's Favor

Pereira was contesting her re-election bid during the 2023 Democratic primary. Initially, she seemed to be on course to lose on Primary Election Day. However, the situation shifted dramatically when absentee ballots came into play, ultimately securing her victory.

Amid this unexpected turnaround, allegations surfaced accusing Pereira of employing unethical practices to influence the absentee ballots. These accusations include bribing senior citizens with various gifts and exerting pressure on how they filled out their ballots.

Some handwritten notes, disseminated on social media, suggest that Pereira may have manipulated ballot instructions. In one such note allegedly written by her, she purportedly stated, "You get to vote for whoever you want, just like I get to choose which residen[ts] I help or don’t help." Another note allegedly read: "No one will ever know!" followed by a heart and her name.

Pereira's Response And Legal Actions

Pereira has vehemently denied the allegations, dismissing the criminal referral as mere "political grandstanding." In a statement, Pereira expressed confidence in her stance, saying, "I am not worried about it in the least. This is not a sprint but a marathon, and I’m preparing a massive lawsuit against the city."

Additional residents voiced their concerns about Pereira’s conduct. An anonymous resident claimed, "For 4 years Maria Pereira has taken my voting ballot and stuffed it in her bag to drop it off," while another stated, "Maria likes to bribe the seniors, bringing them Christmas presents … buying them food, getting them little things."

The Yankee Institute, a Connecticut-based research and public policy think tank, criticized the handling of absentee ballots in Bridgeport. Carol Platt Liebau, president of the Yankee Institute, emphasized, "For Americans -- regardless of party -- to have confidence in our electoral process, they have to know the government is committed to enforcing clean, fair elections."

Bridgeport's History of Controversial Elections

Pereira’s situation is not an isolated incident in Bridgeport. The city has a significant history of controversies revolving around absentee ballots. The SEEC investigates election fraud complaints and provides recommendations to Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin.

There were notable incidents in previous elections where absentee ballots had a substantial impact on the outcomes. Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim’s primary victories in 2019 and 2023 were both propelled by absentee ballots despite his challengers holding initial leads.

The 2023 Democratic primary, in particular, was contentious enough that a judge mandated a primary re-run due to issues with absentee ballots. Nevertheless, Ganim emerged victorious in the re-run and subsequently won the general election.

Previous Arrests and Surveillance Footage

Pereira was previously arrested following an altercation at a balloting location; however, charges against her were not pursued. This incident further adds to a complex web of accusations and investigations involving her and other officials.

Moreover, the 2019 mayoral primary saw four individuals face criminal charges for mishandling absentee ballots, including two currently serving Democratic officials. The continued pattern of allegations underscores systemic issues within Bridgeport's electoral practices.

Surveillance footage during the 2023 mayoral primary allegedly captured instances of ballot box stuffing outside City Hall. This visually documented misconduct has worsened public trust in the city’s electoral integrity.

Conclusion: Addressing Systemic Issues for Fair Elections

Frank Ricci, a Connecticut fire chief and Yankee Institute fellow, stated, "The latest allegations in Bridgeport demonstrate systemic rot in Connecticut, where elected officials have been largely absent in safeguarding absentee ballots — fair and free elections must transcend partisan politics."

With these latest developments, both state officials and watchdog organizations are calling for more robust measures to ensure transparent and fair elections in Bridgeport and beyond. For Bridgeport residents and observers, the next steps taken will be crucial in restoring faith in the democratic process.

In summary, persistent controversies and recent accusations against Maria Pereira highlight ongoing issues with absentee ballot handling in Bridgeport, underscoring the need for electoral reforms.

Pereira's potential legal battles and the SEEC's criminal referrals may further shape the political landscape in the coming months.