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In Democratic District, Bored Poll Workers and Lonely Republicans

March 8, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Every time a voter walked into the large, empty school lunchroom, heads turned.

For poll workers, the rustle of a coat and the sight of a dripping umbrella meant relief from long hours of clock-watching and bored chit-chat.

Here on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a Democratic stronghold of venerable pre-war apartment buildings, charming brownstones and gritty, bustling avenues, Republicans are few and far between. Add Thursday’s miserable sleet and rain, and it meant a lot of bored poll workers and some lonely Republican voters.

At one point, at least 40 minutes went by without a single voter showing up at P.S. 44. After three finally appeared, election coordinator Lorraine Lurie triumphantly declared: ``See, it’s getting busy!″

``Every time I’ve come here, there are people and I have to wait in line,″ said Mike Matiko, 83, a retired postal worker who has voted at the school on West 72nd Street for 50 years. ``This is the first time I’ve seen nobody.″

But Jean Telljohann, a stay-at-home mother of two young children, wasn’t surprised: ``This is a highly Democratic neighborhood, and this is the first year there’s been a primary for Republicans.″

Indeed, a half dozen people who showed up to vote at P.S. 44 had to be turned away. They were Democrats who had assumed that if there was a primary, it had to be for them.

As the sound of a vending machine echoed in the empty lunchroom at P.S. 44., one volunteer was deep in a book titled ``Homemade Love.″

A poll worker showed pictures of her children to co-workers. Another read New York magazine while a volunteer worked on a crossword puzzle.

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