Resident group alleges council candidate committed voter registration fraud

There is no dispute that Cindy Allen, a retired Long Beach police officer who is running for Long Beach’s 2nd District City Council seat, owns three homes—two condos in a Long Beach high rise and a house in Fountain Valley.

But a local residents’ group is alleging she committed fraud by registering to vote at one of the Long Beach condos even though she didn’t actually live there. They’ve asked state and federal officials to investigate.

Allen is pitted against Robert Fox in a Nov. 3 runoff for the open 2nd Council District, which includes the Queen Mary and parts of the city’s Downtown waterfront. In a tight and sometimes contentious race, Fox and his supporters have accused Allen of living in her Fountain Valley home and have raised questions about the recent sale of her local advertising business, which has done extensive business with the city. Allen, for her part, insists she lives in Long Beach at the Aqua Condominiums.

A residents’ group called Grassroots for 2nd District Accountability now claims that Allen committed voter registration fraud years before she ever entered the council race by living in her Orange County home with her family while registering to vote at her Long Beach address for political purposes.

The group, in a July 27 press release, said it has collected “binders of evidence” that Allen legally resided in Fountain Valley over the past decade. They have sent complaints to agencies including the FBI, Secretary of State and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

“It’s not really a secret in my district that Cindy lives in Orange County,” said resident Deb Mozer, who heads the group. “There are a lot of people that are concerned about this and I just felt that we needed to see what’s really going on.”

Mozer, a 57-year-old retiree who once worked as a fraud auditor, said she does not work for Allen’s opponent, but she is a supporter of Fox. She plans to keep digging. 

“I’m not going to stop looking into her,” she said. 

Public records cited by Mozer show Allen and her husband Randy Allen purchased their house in Fountain Valley in 1994. The couple in 2006 purchased a one-bedroom condo in Long Beach at 488 E. Ocean Blvd., where Allen registered to vote in 2008.

Among the accusations, voting records show that Allen over the past decade has voted in more than a dozen elections using the address of the one-bedroom condo, though two other acquaintances—Niko Dahilig and James Rivas—also registered to vote using the same address and subsequently voted in some of the same elections.

Reached by phone last week, Dahilig, who now lives in Chicago, said he lived in Allen’s condo for about seven months around 2012 while he was working as a graphic designer at her ad agency.

“She said it was to help me get my feet off the ground early in my career,” he said of Allen.

Los Angeles County Registrar records show that Rivas, who is Allen’s nephew, registered to vote using the one-bedroom condo’s address and subsequently voted in seven elections from 2014 to 2019. Allen voted in most of those same elections using the same address.

The residents’ group alleges that this is evidence that Allen was not living in the condo during at least some of the periods when she was voting with that address listed on her registration.

California election code mandates that a person register to vote using the address of their “domicile.”

The law states: “Generally, your domicile is where your family lives, where you physically reside, the place you intend to return to whenever you are gone from it, where your driver license says you reside, and where you claim your homeowner’s property tax exemption or renter’s tax credit.”

Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor and nationally-recognized expert in election law, said people should never make assumptions about someone’s legal domicile.

The law, he said, is vague and somewhat complicated in that a person can live away from their domicile for long periods, but it is still considered their legal place of voter registration if they intend to return and consider it their main home.

Levitt uses the example of students away at college, military serving overseas and members of Congress who all spend long periods away from home.

“It’s a little bit of home is where the heart is, but you also have to live there and you also have to think of it as home,” he said.

Levitt said California law acknowledges that people can have domiciles that are different from where their family lives.

“It recognizes the fact that sometimes family relations are complicated,” he said.

In response to questions sent by the Post, Allen in an email said she has been a long-time Long Beach resident.

In 2018, she and her husband bought a second, two-bedroom condo in the same complex as the one-bedroom condo. This one, at 388 E. Ocean Blvd., is where Allen said she currently resides.

“My primary residence address is 388 East Ocean and is the address on my taxes, driver’s license and where I take my homeowner’s exemption,” she said. “Prior moving to 388 E. Ocean, I lived at 488 E. Ocean and also on occasions spent time in our Fountain Valley house. I registered and voted in Long Beach because it’s my primary residence and where we worked and owned our businesses.”

Allen said other individuals who also registered to vote at her condo were not renters.

“I have not rented but allowed family and friends to stay in our home at (488 E. Ocean) for short periods and they used our address,” she said. (Dahilig also said he was not charged rent.)

The resident’s group, however, points to the fact that Allen sometimes listed her Fountain Valley address when giving local campaign contributions. She’s also listed her one-bedroom condo at the 488 address as a vacation rental on Airbnb.

Allen said Airbnb is legal at the Aqua, which requires a 30-day rental.

“I did on occasions Airbnb the 488 condo,” she said. “I no longer Airbnb.”

Long Beach mandates that candidates live in their district for at least 30 days before the end of the nomination period. For this period, the deadline was Nov. 6

Long Beach City Clerk Monique De La Garza said Allen was a qualified candidate when she entered the nomination period.

While registering one’s car, mailing address or homeowner’s exemption may all be pieces of evidence to show whether someone is improperly registered to vote, Levitt said, cases of alleged fraud can be tough to prove.

The issue may ultimately be up to the voters, he said. 

“If the public feels like it’s really important to have someone who’s from where they live, then they can make that political assessment,” he said. “The voters are free to decide.”

Editor’s note: Cindy Allen owned the Long Beach Post until June 2018, when she sold the publication to Pacific Community Media. She has had no involvement since then.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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