Miami-Dade County

They didn’t get ballots in the mail, so these voters got on planes to vote in Florida

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When Katherine Elliott and her husband realized it was only three days before Election Day and their absentee ballots had yet to arrive in the mail, they did what some other Miami-Dade residents did — they jumped on a plane.

Elliott, along with her husband, Niko Martecchini, moved to New York from Miami Beach in September. About a week before the state deadline, the couple sent in the required affidavit to get their ballots sent to Manhattan.

As it got closer to Election Day, they called the Elections Department, where a staff member promised to mail out a second ballot.

“But they never came, so we just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We got to do this, we got to go,’ ” Elliott told the Miami Herald in a phone interview. “It would have been too much of a risk not to. Our vote would have gone to waste.”

Elliott is just one of almost a dozen Miami-Dade registered voters who live or work out-of-state interviewed by the Miami Herald Tuesday who said they were boarding airplanes in order to cast their votes, a small sampling of a possible statewide trend.

Some said they flew in from Massachusetts; others, from Texas or New York.

“I requested two ballots. The first one didn’t arrive. I called them and they said they would send another, but neither one arrived,” said Coral Gables voter Ksenia Varolyguina, who flew in from the Boston area. “I wanted to make sure that my vote was counted, so I looked up flights and found one for $200, when they’re normally about $350.”

About three dozen other voters who live in town also told the Herald they didn’t receive their ballots in the mail. The Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office confirmed that the department has received calls about the issue, but said that it could be for a number of reasons.

“Please note that we must, per state law, send out a vote-by-mail ballot within two business days of the request,” said Robert Rodriguez, the county’s assistant deputy supervisor of elections.

Rodriguez confirmed that several of the voters interviewed by the Herald were mailed ballots. He referred all delivery questions to the U.S. Postal Service, which was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

But the issue extended far beyond Miami-Dade, voters say. Numerous Broward County voters experienced the same problem. Dinesh McCoy, a New York law student, told the Herald that after requesting his ballot three times by phone, he had to take extra measures.

“I decided to have my dad get me a ballot in person after sending the required signed affidavit to him,” he said. “I then requested a third ballot by phone on Nov 1. I was able to vote only because he FedEx-ed me the third ballot and I FedEx-ed it back to arrive on Monday, at full personal cost.”

One Pinellas County voter told the Herald she drove overnight from Tennessee to make it to the polls in Central Florida.

Annabel Sanz, a journalism and politics student at New York University, called the issue a matter of “voter suppression.” Sanz, a 21-year-old who said she has voted in every local and national election since she was 18, said her ballot never arrived — even though election department workers confirmed that it was mailed to her Oct. 31.

For over a year, I have been convincing all of my friends and family to vote, especially those who never have before, and I’ve spent so much time researching all of the candidates and amendments and was excited to cast my vote,” Sanz said. “I just think about the generations of women, especially who fought to have their vote count, and for me to have taken all the steps and done everything I could to try to exercise that right, and still be denied, is heartbreaking.”

Follow @MoniqueOMadan on Twitter.