Sandy's Disruption Affects Absentee Ballots for Out-of-Towners
In Long Island to care for his mother, Mark Silverstein of Florida wants desperately to vote, only he can't get the absentee ballot he requested Oct. 24 and that he confirmed had been mailed Oct. 26. Apparently it is a major issue for many other voters.
Mark Silverstein is sipping a cup of coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts in Long Island when he comments out loud that his right to vote is in jeopardy of being lost this year because of the mega-storm Sandy.
"I just want to vote, I really want to vote," Silverstein said Saturday, Nov. 3. "Why can't they make some kind of arrangement for me to vote at a polling site here?"
His problem, he said, is that he requested an absentee ballot last month but it hasn't yet arrived. And if it doesn't arrive Monday, Nov. 5, he won't have enough time to overnight it back to the supervisor of elections office in Palm Beach County, where he lives, in time to meet the 7 p.m. Nov. 6 deadline.
That's the word, too, from Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard, who confirmed in an interview for a related story that absentee ballots in Florida "have to be in the possession of the Supervior of Elections by 7 p.m. Election Day."
When Silverstein heard this, from a Brandon Patch reporter working at the same Dunkin' Donuts in Woodbury, he immediately called the supervisor of elections office in Palm Beach County to inquire further about his options.
"They confirmed for me that I did request my absentee ballot on Oct. 24, and that they mailed it out to me on Oct. 26," Silverstein said.
That was two days before Sandy struck New York with a vengeance.
"I was told the ballots were stuck at Laguardia and Kennedy airports (in New York)," Silverstein said. "I asked if anybody else was having this problem and I was told, 'Try half of New York.' They told me they were innundated by calls from Floridians in New York who hadn't yet received their ballots."
Bottom line: By no fault of his own, Silverstein said, his right to vote this year could be compromised and he heard no argument to the contrary when he placed his call to his local supervisor of elections.
"We know it's not your fault, but please understand it's not our fault, either, the airports were closed," Silverstein said he was told.
Absentee balloting is just one of many Sandy related 2012 General Election issues that have been discussed widely in New York papers, including in The New York Times, which noted in a report dated Nov. 2 that the state had "extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted to 13 days after Election Day, from seven days, to allow for postal delays caused by the storm."
Still, though, "they must be postmarked no later than Monday," according to the Times report, which quoted John Conklin, a spokesman for the state's Board of Election.
For Silverstein, the wait continues and he is hopeful that he will receive his ballot in time.
"I don't know what's going to happen and I'm surprised there's not more of an uproar about this," he said. "Isn't this unbelievable? I just want to vote."