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VOTING TODAY AFTER 2-WEEK INTERRUPTION

Democracy may have been postponed for two weeks, but it resumes today as primary election voting takes place locally and throughout New York State.

Ballots are being cast today in party elections following Gov. George E. Pataki's decision to suspend voting on Sept. 11, the regularly scheduled Primary Day, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. After the primary was rescheduled for today, state Board of Elections officials ruled that only absentee ballots cast in the Sept. 11 election will be counted. Those who voted on Sept. 11 must vote again today to have their ballots counted, they said.

Polls are open until 9 p.m. in all upstate counties.

Meanwhile, the state's top elected officials issued a bipartisan statement over the weekend urging all New Yorkers to cast ballots as a way of reaffirming the democratic process. Pataki and Lt. Gov Mary O. Donohue -- both Republicans -- as well as Comptroller H. Carl McCall and Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer -- both Democrats -- all called today's election "the ultimate expression of patriotism."

"Clearly, as Republicans and Democrats, we have our differences," they said in a letter to New Yorkers. "But we all value the open debate of our electoral process, and we all agree there is no more eloquent expression of American patriotism than casting your ballot in a free, democratic election."

Even with such encouragement, however, most political observers still have no idea how the two-week hiatus will affect turnout. While some believe many voters will fail to recognize the primary was rescheduled and turnout will be light, others hold that a renewed sense of patriotism could cause a higher-than-normal turnout.

Topping the local primary ballot are a number of contests that will help determine control of the Erie County Legislature.

A sizzling race between incumbent William A. Pauly and challenger Elise Swiantek Cusack will draw Williamsville-area Republicans. And several Democratic primaries in the Legislature also will determine if Republican County Executive Joel A. Giambra attains a working majority to support his policies, or if opposition Democrats will continue to hold the edge.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello is facing Common Council Member at-Large Beverly A. Gray in a low-key contest that will determine if Masiello serves a third term, and several important contests are also slated for the Council.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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