On a dreary primary-election day, with downpours in the forecast until poll-closing time, voter traffic in Philadelphia's suburbs barely registered as a trickle.

In Delaware County, a sign flap flared up in the contentious race for Newtown Township supervisor, but it was so quiet at the Radnor Township Library polling place at mid-morning that poll workers were playing the video game Angry Birds on an iPad.

"It's very, very slow," said Patty Ann Daley-Klein, an election judge in Bensalem Township, Bucks County. In a precinct with 1,900 voters, only 28 had shown up by mid-morning.

"By now, we'd have at least 100," he added. "It's not even a slow steady stream."

If the early returns are any indication, most of the 1.4 million eligible Democratic and Republican voters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties are going to pass on this one.

Off-year elections traditionally have low turnouts, and primary day 2001 is particularly short on passion. "There's no major question, and it's the rainy-day blues," said Daley-Klein.

Other than races for school-board and municipal offices, the Bucks commissioners' race and the Republican battle for sheriff in Montgomery County are the only nonjudicial contests.

Voters are choosing nominees for five judicial posts in Chester County, and two in Delaware County.

In Bucks, Commissioners Charles H. Martin and Robert G. Loughery are fighting a challenge from two foes, including former four-term Commissioner Andrew L. Warren.

In Montgomery, of the 12 county offices on the ballot, only the race to become the GOP nominee for sheriff is contested. Former Whitemarsh police chief, Eileen Whalon Behr, is opposing Robert J. Durante, a deputy to a former sheriff.

While the Durante name is well-known in the county, Robert, 58, of Norristown, is no relation to former Sheriff John P. Durante, who died in February. He has campaigned on his 33 years with the Sheriff's Department.

The race wasn't drawing the early-morning crowd to the Olivet-Schwenkfelder in East Norriton. Usually, a line has formed by the time the polls open, but not this morning.

One contest that has generated some heat is the one for Newtown Township supervisor. This morning plainclothes sheriff's deputies showed up at the Volunteer Fire Department polling location off Route 252 and demanded supporters for Republican Ed Partridge, who is running for supervisor, to remove a poster from the lobby.

The deputies told 82-year-old Jan Elston, who was also handing out sample ballots, to take her poster out into the rain. A nearby sign for the party's endorsed candidate, Linda Houldin, was not challenged by the deputies, who would not identify themselves when asked by a reporter. After the ruckus drew the attention of other poll workers and party supporters, David Dunn, a supporter for Partridge grabbed the Houldin sign and marched outside.

While most of the offices up for grabs may lack glamour, William Montgomery, of Bensalem, a retired steamfitter, says that's beside the point. "I exercise my right I vote in every election, rain or not," said Montgomery, a Democrat and military veteran.

As for the rain, perhaps it will have some effect on turnout. However, an Inquirer study of 30 elections in Philadelphia failed to show any relationship between weather and turnout.

For people such as Dale Longmaid, 70, of West Bradford Township, rain is irrelevant.

"Voting is important; we grew up with it being important," she said. "People in my family have died to protect that right."

Inquirer staff writers Bonnie L. Cook and Mari A. Schaefer

Contact the Inquirer Online News Desk at online@phillynews.com or 215-854-2443.