Bridgeport’s Democratic Registrar of Voters Santa (Sandi) Ayala is retiring this week, following 16 years of sometimes controversial service.
Most recently Ayala oversaw the city’s Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary. The campaign of state Sen. Marilyn Moore, which needed 2,500 signatures to force the primary against incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim, alleged that the registrar’s office was seeking to disqualify some of those signatures.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill ultimately ordered both Ayala and Bridgeport’s Republican Registrar of Voters Linda Grace to accept all petition signatures from new voters.
Moore ultimately lost the primary, but her campaign viewed with suspicion the high number of write-in votes for Ganim. Although Ganim has been sworn in, the State Elections Enforcement Commission is continuing an investigation into the matter; Ayala has not been officially linked with any wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, her tenure as Democratic registrar has been a frequent source of controversy. A City Council candidate accused Ayala of mishandling a primary vote recount in 2007; then-Mayor Bill Finch accused the office of bungling the 2010 election by not having enough ballots available; and in 2011, the state Supreme Court overturned Ayala’s rejection of Democratic mayoral hopeful Mary-Jane Foster’s efforts at being included on the primary ballot. Foster lost the primary to Finch.
Those and other incidents resulted in frequent calls for Ayala to resign. Her last day as Bridgeport Democratic Registrar is tomorrow.
Patricia Howard, Bridgeport’s current deputy registrar of voters, will serve in Ayala’s stead until a new registrar is elected next November.