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GOP GOES TO COURT TO APPEAL HAIR-THIN ELECTION LOSS

Chautauqua County Republicans have appealed a court ruling involving a disputed election in a County Legislature race, and the decision could have deep implications for 2000.

At issue in the suit, filed Monday with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester, are three of the five absentee and affidavit ballots Justice Joseph Gerace ordered left closed and uncounted last month in the race between incumbent Republican Kenneth Dahlgren and Democrat Robert Anderson.

Anderson defeated Dahlgren by three votes.

"There were three people out there who voted in the District 8 race, who were registered and qualified to vote, and we decided that they should not be denied their right to vote because of circumstances beyond their control," Legislature Minority Leader James Caflisch said. Caflisch characterized those circumstances as "technicalities."

Anderson declined to comment Tuesday night, saying he would wait until a ruling is made.

Caflisch said a hearing will be held today in State Supreme Court in Buffalo on whether Anderson can be sworn in before a final ruling is made.

The outcome of the case will decide whether the 25-member County Legislature has a Democrat or Republican majority. If Gerace's ruling stands, the Legislature will have 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

Caflisch said two votes were cast by absentee ballot, and one by affidavit. County elections commissioners disagreed on whether to open and count them.

During the legal five-day waiting period, after which they would be opened, Anderson sought an order preventing them from being opened and counted. Gerace ruled in Anderson's favor.

Asked why Republicans had waited a month before appealing the decision, Caflisch said: "We were looking for an attorney who knew election law, because New York State has a very byzantine, complicated set of rules and regulations. It's just not something that attorneys locally practice and go to court for every day."

The GOP hired Albany lawyer John Champoli to take the case.

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