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Folks exiting the voting booths at Court Street Elementary School in the Village of Lancaster were as good as any to talk about what the nation wants from its president the next four years.

It's not the biggest voting district, or the most affluent, but party loyalty doesn't count as much. The percentage of unaffiliated voters -- more than 27 percent -- is as high here as anywhere in Erie County.

"I want someone who will use his head. Make some informed decisions," said Chris Costanzo, one of those unaffiliated voters. "It seems that too often we do things because the entire party wants to."

Voters in this middle-class corner of the county stepped out of the booths Tuesday and looked ahead.

And what they want in their president boiled down to this: keeping the home front safe, bringing the troops home from Iraq and fixing the economy.

Here's what some had to say about the next four years:

Steve Miecznikowski, 24, a photographer and graduate student: "I'd really like to see some resolution in Iraq. Once things start to clear up in Iraq, I want to focus on domestic issues -- jobs and the economy."

Jack Bromwich, 53, registered conservative: "No deficit. The war is not even an issue with me. They (presidents) all get us into wars. They don't all get us into a deficit. We're broke."

Costanzo, 27, statistician: "I would hope the focus is on the security of the nation. I hope no matter what, that's the first thing on his plate."

Voters trekked through the steady rain to the gymnasium of the elementary school, located off Broadway in the village. Turnout was steady. Some, though, were more than reluctant to cast a vote for either presidential candidate.

"Everyone stated they had a plan," said Sean Kittrick, 36, "but no one stated what the plan was."

Others wondered aloud how much it mattered who was in the Oval Office -- either would have his hands full.

"With the terrorism situation, I believe any president in office right now is going to do the job to the best of their ability," said David Friend, 37.

Mike Kimmick, 19, who voted in his first presidential election: "We definitely have to stay in the war to finish what we started."

Kris Kittrick, 36: "I think Americans have to be very, very vigilant on what civil rights they may be losing."

John Snyder, 41, an Air Force veteran: "I want to get the size of the military back up to acceptable levels, so we can take care of what we're doing. It's not like we're fighting in one place anymore. We're fighting in four or five different countries."

Many voters did agree on one thing: they're glad the campaigning is over.

"Too long," said Eunice O'Brien, 74, another unaffiliated voter. "I watched the debates, but, oh Lord, you kept hearing the same thing over and over again."


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