AYER/HARVARD -- The weather was hotter than the contest on Tuesday, a special election to fill the remaining term of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who is now Secretary of State. But the sweltering humidity and high temperatures didn't keep Ayer and Harvard voters away from the polls.

Ayer Town Clerk John Canney reported that roughly 25 percent, or 1,263 of the town's 5,568 registered voters cast ballots. In neighboring Harvard, the turnout was 42 percent, or 1,672 from among the 3,965 registered voters, according to Town Clerk Janet Vellante.

The results in Ayer: 683 for Gomez; 569 for Markey.

In Harvard, t

Voting was slow and steady all day, and except for the early morning traffic when the polls opened, there were no lines, officials said.

"It's been steady all day, not what we expected," said Canney on Tuesday afternoon at Town Hall while voters trickled into Town Hall. "All of my workers have been telling me there's been a steady flow of people."

In Harvard, election clerk Janet Wilhem was sitting at a table inside the Bromfield School cafeteria with longtime poll worker Sandy Lefkovits. It was just past noon and there was little to do.

"It's not a good time of year to have an election. School's out. People are on vacation. There are a lot of other things going on, like the Bruins playing for the Stanley Cup," Wilhelm said. "And next week is the Fourth of July."

Outside the school, the heat rising from the sidewalk was high enough to toast marshmallows. Unhurried voters parked their air conditioned cars and SUV's and straggled into the building.

"I always vote. I'm not crazy about either candidate, but Markey (Democrat Edward J. Markey) is absolutely revolting and Gomez (Republican Gabriel E. Gomez) is less revolting," said a woman who gave her name as Olga. "None of them look that good to me, but out of the two, I'm voting for Gomez."

Harvard voter John Marschall said he considers voting his civic duty.

"If you don't vote, you can't complain," he said.

Others shared that philosophy.

"I'm an independent and I always look at who is the best candidate," said Sharon Ursch. "I don't like Markey that well, and I like the freshness of Gomez, but I don't agree with a lot of his opinions, and I want to keep the Senate as Democrats."

Ursch's father, Frank Williams, a World War II veteran, said he was voting for a candidate aligned with his own political views. He was also exercising a treasured right.

"People have died to give me that privilege, to give us our freedoms," he said. "I've decided that voting is the least I can do to honor their efforts and accomplishments."

In Ayer, Pamela Pavao was taking the steps from the second floor at Town Hall where she had just voted.

"I was happy to vote," Pavao said. "This country is going downhill, it's rolling really fast. I feel at least that now (by voting), it's not going as fast down the hill."

Likewise Ayer resident Debbie Goodwill, a teacher, said she was voting with the hope of making a difference.

"I was concerned that people wouldn't come out. I made sure that I did," Goodwill said.