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Count of ballots begins in NY GOP primary races

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Election officials on Thursday began the long process of counting, recounting and addressing challenges to hundreds of absentee ballots that could decide the political careers of two Republican senators who voted to legalize same-sex marriage New York.

The count that will continue for several days will decide if Sens. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie and Roy McDonald of Saratoga County will advance to the general election in November, or if their votes legalizing same-sex marriage end their careers.

Absentee ballots in the biggest population of the district anchored by Saratoga County begins Monday.

McDonald faces Kathleen Marchione in the 43rd District. Marchione was ahead by a little over 100 votes after the Sept. 13 primary and gained a few in Thursday's count, but another 600 absentee votes will have to be tabulated.

Saland faces Neil DiCarlo of Brewster in the 41st District primary in the lower Hudson Valley. In Thursday's counting in Dutchess County, Saland expanded his 42-vote lead on primary night to 77 votes. Putnam County's votes are next. There are nearly 600 absentee ballots.

Each of the counties' boards of election will continue to canvass and then certify their totals and send them to the state Board of Elections.

The tallies are due by the middle of next week, but they could be delayed by court challenges.

But winners need to be determined by Oct. 1 to provide enough time to put them on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.

Traditionally, the breakdown of absentee ballots usually mirrors the voting trend on election night. Saland and McDonald, however, should have more experienced staffers in the critical absentee ballot efforts, according to political consultants.

The senators' critical votes for gay marriage in June 2011 were a major primary issue in the Republican primary that most often attracts more conservative members of the party.

On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called them men of integrity who cast courageous votes, knowing it could cost them their political careers.