For Cristina, a second-year law student from Miami, voting in this year's election was going to be especially meaningful, since it wasn't something people in her family could do even a generation ago.
"My family came from Cuba, someplace where they can't even vote at all," Cristina told The Huffington Post on Monday. "My mother came to the U.S. in her early 20s.”
Now in her early 20s herself, Cristina fears she's going to be left out of the 2012 vote because her absentee ballot from Miami-Dade County has yet to reach her Manhattan apartment.
"It's like the most fundamental civil liberty that we have," she said. "And I can't even exercise it."
A far-flung registrant from one of America's perennial battleground states, Cristina, who asked that her last name not be printed, is one of an unknown number of would-be voters who are realizing late in the game that they may not get their say in this year's election.
Accounts are trickling in from all over the country, including closely watched swing states like Ohio and New Hampshire, of people who, like Cristina, requested absentee ballots and never received them.
In some cases, the cause appears to be human error, as with the ballot requests that were reportedly thrown out in Ohio by voting officials working with outdated records. In other cases -- particularly in the greater New York area -- it seems to be due to Hurricane Sandy that absentee ballots from one part of the country haven't made it to voters in another.
During the 2008 presidential election, nearly 4 million absentee ballots never made it to the people who requested them, according to an estimate by political scientist Charles Stewart III.
The confusion over who is eligible to vote this week, and under what circumstances, is nowhere more evident than in Florida, where the presidential election was decided by just a few hundred ballots in 2000. Frustrated poll-goers reportedly stood on eight- and nine-hour lines this weekend as Florida officials fought over whether to have early voting hours extended or curtailed.
To Cristina, that kind of tense political climate is hardly unfamiliar.
A registered Democrat who says she has no clear favorite in this year's presidential race, Cristina has had "a lot of disagreements" over the years with her family members, whom she describes as hard-line Republicans who -- like many older people of Cuban descent in Florida -- favor the GOP's staunch anti-socialist rhetoric.
There used to be heated discussions at the dinner table over politics, Cristina told HuffPost. "But now," she said, "I just kind of let them speak."
Cristina told HuffPost that as a law student, she's especially distressed about not getting a chance to vote, as she expects between one and three Supreme Court appointments to take place in the next four years.
"Big landmark cases are going to come in," she said, citing reproductive rights and gay marriage as among the issues on which the court could make substantive rulings in the next four years. "The judicial branch has the ability to change so many things."
And while she's not a die-hard supporter of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney -- saying she would want to do "a little bit more research" on "issues that are important to me" before throwing in with either candidate -- she's disappointed that she may not get the chance to pick.
"To go out there and cast your vote, you're saying something," she told HuffPost. "It would have been nice to actually choose one way or the other."
What was the experience at your polling place like? The Huffington Post is eager to hear your experiences and see your photos. Email us at email@example.com.