Ohioans get final say after intense presidential campaigns
Swing state Ohio will have final say after months of nonstop campaigning
There were long lines at some polling places but few problems reported Tuesday as voters cast their ballots in the crucial swing state of Ohio after months of nonstop campaign commercials and other appeals for their support.
Turnout was reported heavy in some areas around the state as the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney appeared headed to a photo finish. There's a chance the results in Ohio will be too close to call right away, or that the race will be left hanging while provisional ballots are counted.
Elections officials and both sides were preparing for voting challenges after a series of court cases this year.
Ohio also had one of the most hotly contested and expensive U.S. Senate campaigns, with Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel trying to unseat first-term Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. In the Legislature, Republicans hoped to expand their control, and only a few congressional races were competitive after new districts were drawn.
At some precincts people were lined up before the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Dozens waited at a Shriner's hall in Columbus well before opening. In Brook Park, a blue-collar suburb of Cleveland and home to a Ford Motor Co. complex, about 75 people were waiting in line when the polling place for three precincts opened in a union hall.
Dolly Montelone, the location coordinator at the union hall, said that by midmorning the turnout had been about two-thirds of a full day's usual turnout. All 20 voting booths were filled as she spoke.
In suburban Cleveland, Collette Krantz, 82, said health care was the top issue on her mind as she voted for Obama at a college community in Berea. She wondered what to expect, especially on health care, from a Romney-Ryan administration.
"I think under Romney there would be many changes," she said. "We truly don't know what the heck they are about."
Christine McCauley, a 46-year-old Democrat who voted for Romney, said she isn't satisfied with the economy.
"I still think it's stagnant," said McCauley, a stay-at-home mom from Berea. "I think it hurts household values, it hurts education, it hurts everybody more when you have people not working."
Matt Wieczorek, a 25-year-old elementary school science teacher who voted Tuesday morning, said he's a registered Republican but voted for Obama. He said he thinks the president is a better choice to keep education and the economy moving forward.
"We have seen growth in the economy, maybe not as fast as we want it to be, but Obama has made a difference, and I don't want to see that growth come to an end," Wieczorek said.
Ken Armentrout, a 77-year-old retired truck driver, stopped into a diner for breakfast after casting his vote for Romney in rural Pataskala, east of Columbus. He said the economy hasn't come around fast enough, and Romney should get a chance. But there are other reasons, too.
"I like his morals," Armentrout said. "I like his view of marriage -- one man and one woman. That's a big one with me. Obama has been kind of wishy washy on that one."
Polls stay open until 7:30 p.m.
Turnout was expected to be crucial, with Obama looking for big totals from northeastern Ohio and the state's largest cities, and Romney hoping for blowouts in the suburbs and rural towns.
"I don't think you're going to see a lot of major shifts, so what you're going to be looking at is the margins," said longtime Ohio State University political scientist Herb Asher.
Ohioans also are being asked to change the way districts are redrawn in a statewide ballot issue. Issue 2 proposes that a 12-member commission of state residents re-draw congressional and legislative maps every 10 years.
Issue 1 asked voters if they'd like an Ohio Constitution convention to make changes but it has drawn little organized attention either way.
Ohioans also had three state Supreme Court justices on the ballot.