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Miami-Dade elections supervisor asked for -- but wasn't granted -- special directive from state for absentee ballots from Florida voters hit by Sandy

So much attention has been paid over the past few days to voters who live in South Florida casting absentee ballots in person that it's easy to forget the voters who actually need to vote by mail, because they live outside the state or abroad.

And some of those voters will likely miss out on voting -- including at least Florida two voters in Hurricane Sandy's path.

Sarah Levrant and her boyfriend, Josh Steinberg, live in lower Manhattan, one of the areas hard-hit by Sandy. On Tuesday, Levrant said she placed her absentee ballot in a blue U.S. Postal Service mailbox on a main thoroughfare. It has yet to show up online as delivered to the Miami-Dade elections department.

Steinberg, who said he first requested his ballot more than a month ago, has yet to receive it. He said the department told him it did not receive his first request -- which he also sent by mail -- and then sent him a ballot on Oct. 25. Both had voted absentee in the past.

"It's definitely a tricky situation -- I can understand how, given the circumstances, that things such as standard mail can be delayed," said Steinberg, a 25-year-old medical school student originally from southwest Miami-Dade. "I just feel like I'm helpless because there's nothing I can really do, and they say every vote counts." 

Levrant, 26, who works at American Express, said she called the post office in New York to make sure mail was being picked up. She and Bergstein have received mail at least twice since the storm, in which they lost power for six days.

"My biggest concern is that we're not the only people" in the same situation said Levrant, who is originally from Pinecrest.

They're not, Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley indicated to them in an email Monday night.

"Please note that we have reported issuing [sic] regarding Absentee Ballots being delivered to and mailed from New York," she wrote. "I have contacted the Division of Elections twice, yesterday and today, urging that they issue a directive for handling ballots for our voters.  My request was delivered up the chain and I was told today that there would be no such directive. We are recommending that voters who find themselves in this situation contact the Secretary of State."

Last week we reported on a Harvard College student from Pompano Beach who had yet to receive her ballot. The Broward Republican Party said it had fielded dozens of calls with similar complaints.

One of them was from James Chevrier, a solider in Afghanistan who had requested an absentee ballot in January. But one wasn't mailed to him until Oct. 13 -- too late for his vote to count, because it usually takes six weeks for mail to arrive stateside from his base, he said in an email. Knowing about the long mail time, Chevrier said he emailed the Broward elections supervisor's office twice in September and received no response until the county party stepped in. 

"[H]opefully you can help to fix this so it does not reoccur," Chevrier wrote to a Miami Herald reporter who inquired about his case.

Another Broward voter, 31-year-old Karen Hoffmann, had yet to receive her ballot in Philadelphia as of late Monday night. She requested one on Oct. 5, she said. When she didn't receive one soon after, she called and found out the request hadn't gone through because the county had misspelled a name on her original registration. 

But by Halloween, she still hadn't gotten a ballot -- so Hoffmann, a first-year law student at Temple University who has voted absentee before, said she called again and was told it had been mailed to her parents' address in Pompano Beach, though her parents never received it. A new ballot would be mailed to Philadelphia, she was told.

But no luck. Hoffmann won't get to vote, "unless they fly me to Florida tomorrow," she joked.

"I honestly didn't expect Broward County to have problems," said Hoffmann, who is volunteering at the polls in North Philadelphia on Tuesday. "I definitely think Florida is an important state to be allowed to vote in, being such a tight race...Who knows to how many other people this has happened."