STAMFORD — About a year after being elected city clerk in 2017, Lyda Ruijter discovered a strange database in her office computer files.
It contained information “that should never have been there,” Ruijter said Thursday.
The data listed 230 Stamford residents who had voted by mail in the 2017 municipal elections, according to Ruijter. She did not understand why the names were separated from the full list of absentee voters, she said.
In any given election, there should be exactly one list of absentee voters, she said.
Ruijter, a Democrat, said she was surprised many of the names on the shortlist were of friends, neighbors and contributors who supported her 2017 election, when she ousted the Republican clerk of longtime Donna Loglisci.
“I thought, ‘What is this? ‘” Ruijter, now in his second term as city clerk, said Thursday. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at.'”
Over the following months, Ruijter analyzed both sets of data. She said she found that the names on the shortlist were also on the full list, but with different ballot ID numbers.
Ruijter said she concluded that two sets of mail-in ballots may have been issued for the 230 voters on the shortlist.
She continued to examine the data and found something else odd, Ruijter said.
Many voters not on the shortlist did not return their ballot to the town hall secretariat. But the full list showed those same absentee voters returning their ballots, Ruijter said.
Closer examination revealed that the reverse was also true, according to Ruijter – the data showed that voters on the shortlist who were marked as having returned their ballots were marked on the full list as not having them. not returned.
The result of the conflicting data sets was that the total number of voters who returned their mail-in ballots was about the same, Ruijter found.
Whoever created the data understood that, on election day, moderators would have to certify that the total number of absentee ballots matched the total number of absentee voters, Ruijter concluded.
She put that together with something she knew as a candidate for the 2017 city clerk race.
His opponent, Loglisci, had lost the election with 44% of the vote in person, Ruijter said. But Loglisci had won 62% of the postal votes.
By March 2019, Ruijter had finished reviewing mail-in voting data and sat down to write a letter to the FBI.
“It is with dismay that I must report the fraudulent handling of (absentee) ballots in the November 2017 election to the City of Stamford Clerk’s Office,” Ruijter wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CT. Examine.
His research had identified a “complex illegal scenario” which, to succeed, required knowledge of the complex mail-in voting system, Ruijter told the FBI.
For example, she said, the shortlist ballots were created using new ID numbers affixed to the ballot envelopes. But envelopes aren’t checked on Election Day, so moderators counting mail-in ballots wouldn’t see envelope numbers, Ruijter told the FBI.
The names of the people who supported her could have been identified using their addresses, zip codes and campaign contribution reports, which are on file with the city clerk’s office, Ruijter told the FBI.
She said the scenario could have gone this way: When mail-in ballots that arrived at the city clerk’s office were identified as likely Ruijter voters, someone could have listed them as ” income” on the complete voters list, then discard them and replace them with ballots with new identification numbers. The new ballots, entered on the shortlist, could have been marked for Loglisci and then carried over to the full list.
In his letter, Ruijter told the FBI that at election time, Loglisci and some staff sometimes worked “many hours after closing,” which once prompted a union grievance that overtime was not unfairly offered only to the two clerks appointed to issue postal ballots.
The scenario reported by Ruijter allegedly occurred while an electoral fraud case involving the previous municipal election was unfolding.
In fact, knowledge of Ruijter’s letter came to light during the just-concluded trial of former Stamford Democratic Town Committee Chairman John Mallozzi, who was in court on 14 counts of 2nd degree forgery and 14 counts of misrepresentation during a postal vote. in the 2015 elections.
A state Superior Court judge on Monday found Mallozzi guilty of all 28 Class D felonies. They could carry up to five years in prison, up to $140,000 in fines, or both. Mallozzi is expected to be sentenced on November 14.
Near the end of the trial, Mallozzi’s attorney, Stephan Seeger, informed the judge that he had just obtained documents he had subpoenaed from the city, including Ruijter’s letter to the FBI. Because the FBI could conduct an investigation, the judge said he was obligated to inform witnesses that they could put themselves in danger by testifying, and by law they were allowed to refuse.
All but one refused.
Seeger said he would appeal the verdict, in part on the grounds that Mallozzi did not have the opportunity to question prosecution witnesses, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
During the trial, Loglisci, a witness for the state, testified that she delivered mail-in ballots to Mallozzi in violation of state law. She has not been charged in the case.
A phone message left in Loglisci on Thursday was not returned.
Asked by email Thursday to comment on an apparent FBI investigation into the 2017 Stamford election, New Haven bureau spokesman Charles Grady replied, “I can’t at this time.” The FBI, by practice, neither confirms nor denies the existence of investigations.
But Ruijter said that some time after sending the letter, the FBI requested documents and interviewed people in his office. And last year, the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the city a grand jury subpoena requesting copies of 2017 election databases; computer logs; emails between Loglisci and two of his collaborators, Diane Pesiri and Maria Stabile; records of their overtime pay; and other documents related to the 2017 election.
Contacted by e-mail on Thursday, Pesiri replied: “No comment”.
Stabile did not respond to an email.
In the 2017 election, incumbent Mayor David Martin, a Democrat, easily defeated Republican Barry Michelson, and voters held positions on the Council of Representatives, the Finance Council and the Board of Education.
Ruijter said Thursday that allocating mail-in ballots to voters who request them is “a very exact, complex and precise process.” Each ballot is numbered. If a voter loses a ballot or never arrives in the mail, a replacement cannot be issued without the city clerk voiding the original, Ruijter said.
“The protection system is so important,” she said. “There is a sacred principle – each voter receives a ballot, and each ballot is designated for a voter.”
Ruijter said she vouches “for the honesty of city employees.”
They are “serious and law-abiding officials,” Ruijter said. “It’s not easy dealing with elections and polls. It’s not easy to do.