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Ayala's mother mum on residency scandal

Updated 11:50 pm, Thursday, December 13, 2012
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BRIDGEPORT -- The woman in the best position, personally and professionally, to clear up confusion over legislator-elect Christina Ayala's residency isn't talking.

"I do not have any comment on anything having to do with the whole situation," Santa "Sandi" Ayala, Christina's mother and Bridgeport's Democratic registrar of voters for eight years, said by phone Thursday.

Elected in November to represent the 128th House District in the General Assembly, Christina is under fire for telling the registrars and state election officials she lives at 604 Noble Ave., although other evidence indicates she resides in the 129th District at 49 Hillside Ave.

The issue arose when Ayala, a Democrat, and her boyfriend were arrested last week for a domestic dispute at the Hillside address and she subsequently sought a protective order listing Hillside as her residence.

The same 49 Hillside Ave. address was also listed on a police report when Ayala was arrested following a hit and run collision in August, 24 hours after winning her primary.

Ayala was recently warned by incoming House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Meriden, that under state law she has until new legislators are sworn in Jan. 9 to rectify her living situation.

But that does not deal with the possibility Ayala, who according to the Secretary of the State's office voted in November's election, may have fraudulently done so in the wrong district. That is the question her mother is in a position to answer, given the registrars office has Christina living at 604 Noble Ave.

"It's pretty easy for this registrar to find out where this voter lives if there is some question," said Av Harris, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State's office, acknowledging the familial relationship.

Christina Ayala has not responded to requests for interviews. Her father, Tito, has not been helpful. And cousin Andres Ayala, who is graduating from representing the 128th District to a state Senate seat, said earlier this week he does not know where Christina lives.

Registrars are required between January and May to canvass voters who have changed their addresses. Bridgeport's next canvass is scheduled for sometime in the late winter or early spring, according to the registrar's office.

Harris said registrars are not precluded from contacting voters on a case-by-case basis when questions arise.

"If they do hear about a particular voter moving they can send what's called a `friendly letter', and it has a form in it for the voter to check off if they have moved and what's the new address ... And that can be done at any time," Harris said.

Harris said the matter of Christina Ayala is in the hands of Bridgeport's independently elected registrars.

"We're not going to tell them what to do. State laws give them the authority to make that determination," Harris said.

Sandi Ayala, according to the registrars office, has been out for the week and staff could not say if she plans to return next week.

Linda Grace, Bridgeport's Republican registrar, during two interviews was not anxious to get involved.

"I would prefer to stay out of this, obviously," she said.

Grace said she has never discussed Christina's living arrangements with Sandi Ayala before.

Does Grace intend to ask Sandi whether her daughter lives on Noble Avenue so the Bridgeport registrars have the correct information?

"At some point," she said.

Asked again, Grace said, "The subject may arise. I don't know how else to answer it."

But she also said Connecticut's voters have a lot of rights and noted Bridgeport is a "transient" city and residents frequently relocate.

Grace said questions over whether Ayala improperly cast a vote in the wrong legislative district in November are an issue for the state Elections Enforcement Commission.

"Now you're getting into something that's a different purview," Grace said. "I don't think that would be up to our office."

Melissa Russell, of Bethlehem, president of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut, declined to say whether Sandi Ayala, as Bridgeport's registrar, has an obligation to settle the question of her daughter's residency.

Russell said generally, registrars offices are not an investigative or enforcement body.

"I can't say what a registrar should or shouldn't do in this situation," Russell said. "If you have somebody, there seems to be a discrepancy, you try to fix it. And if you can't get answers it goes to the enforcement body (the state). We can't levy fines, create penalties."

The state Elections Enforcement Commission has said it is monitoring the situation with Christina Ayala.

brian.lockhart@scni.com; 203-414-0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart1

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