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Campaigns prepare for close race; elections officials prepare for voters

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The polls open at 6 a.m. today, and two events suggest the congressional race between Democratic Rep. William L. Owens and Republican Matthew A. Doheny will be close and local turnout will be high.

On Monday, Mr. Owens’s campaign said it would request a court order to impound ballots that have been cast. The procedural move means elections officials have to put ballots under lock and key so that they’re treated the same way among the 12 counties in the congressional district. It’s not an unusual move, but campaigns preparing for a blowout usually don’t take that step.

And on turnout, if absentees are a perfect indicator, more people in the north country will vote today than in any of the last three congressional races.

The Owens and Doheny campaigns, meanwhile, released last-minute appeals to persuade the dwindling number of undecided voters and to remind those planning to go to the polls there’s an election happening.

“We’re just going to continue to ask people to give me a chance,” Mr. Doheny said in a conference call with reporters and with former Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican with whom he campaigned Monday.

Mr. Pataki upset Democratic Gov. Mario M. Cuomo in 1994 to win the keys to the governor’s mansion and served as New York’s governor from 1995 to 2006. But the polls didn’t always bring good news during Mr. Pataki’s upstart campaign, much the way a September poll showed Mr. Doheny down by 13 points to Mr. Owens.

“You don’t pay any attention; you just work hard,” said Mr. Pataki, who owns a farm in Essex County and whose son, Owen, is a second lieutenant stationed at Fort Drum.

On Monday, Mr. Owens’s campaign said former President Bill Clinton had recorded an automated call that was going out to residents of the 21st Congressional District.

“I’m calling to ask you to support Bill Owens for Congress this Tuesday,” Mr. Clinton said, according to a transcript of the call provided by the Owens campaign. “Bill’s got a strong record of fighting for middle-class families in upstate New York, and he has what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy.”

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today. But many residents already have cast absentee ballots. In Jefferson County, the number is up sharply. By Monday morning, the Board of Elections already had received 2,728 absentee ballots. In 2008, the last presidential year, the Board of Elections counted 2,131 absentee ballots. In 2010, the last time Mr. Owens and Mr. Doheny faced off, 1,947 people voted via absentee ballot.

The flow of absentees will continue until Nov. 19, when they must be received by the Board of Elections via mail. Absentees had to be postmarked by Monday.

In St. Lawrence County, the Board of Elections had received 2,534 absentee ballots by Monday afternoon. In 2008, the Board of Elections ended up counting 2,578 absentees.

In Lewis County, the Board of Elections has received 543 absentee ballots. In 2008, it counted 853 absentee ballots. Ann M. Nortz, the Republican elections commissioner, said the figure puts Lewis County about on track for a presidential year.

Other than the race for Congress, north country voters will decide whom they want as their president for the next four years. President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, have not campaigned in New York. Mr. Obama is expected to win the state easily, though the margins in the north country should be extremely close.

In Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties, voters will pick their state senator for the next two years. Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is running against Democrat Amy M. Tresidder, an Oswego County legislator.

Two Assembly races are taking place in St. Lawrence County. Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey faces Democrat Timothy R. Carpenter, a Plattsburgh City Council member, and Conservative Party candidate Karen M. Bisso, a Plattsburgh special education teacher.

And Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, faces Democrat Joseph Chilelli of Herkimer.

In Lewis County, Democrat Kevin M. McArdle faces Republican Daniel R. King to replace Charles C. Merrell as county judge. Mr. Merrell won a state Supreme Court seat in 2011.

A slew of local races is set for today in towns and villages throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

You can look up where you are voting at https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us.

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