COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A presidential race seen as one of the most unusual, contentious and colorful elections in recent memory was the main draw for voters casting ballots Tuesday on that and other races in the battleground state of Ohio.
Turnout appeared to be robust across Ohio with relatively few problems, according to the state’s election office. Polls opened at 6:30 a.m., with steady voting reported in many areas. The election sites close at 7:30 p.m.
Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted, said county election boards had troubleshooters lined up in case of any issues during the day. Election officials in Cuyahoga County said they were taking precautions to deal with any problems that might occur and had been in contact with officials from the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The county elections board director said he also asked the county sheriff’s office to reactivate a special response team created for July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Change, jobs and unrest seemed to be on the minds of some voters as they cast their ballots.
Two voters who think Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would bring change to the country disagreed on whether that would be good or bad.
Carl Cray, a Columbus Republican, said he voted for Trump on Tuesday as someone who could get things done. The retired newspaper press operator said he supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico and his broader immigration policies.
Change is needed in Washington “to shake up things,” the 62-year-old Cray said.
Registered independent Michael Emmerich voted Tuesday in suburban Cleveland for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Emmerich, a commercial pilot, said his vote was mostly against Trump because he prefers the status quo to the kind of change Trump would bring.
Emmerich, 45, said Trump is “completely unqualified” to lead the country.
A registered Democrat in suburban Cleveland who also voted for Clinton said she has better ideas about how to create jobs. But he is worried about unrest in the country.
“People are looking for an answer, but they don’t know where to find it,” retired engineer Patrick McMillion, 62, of Euclid, said.
In Columbus, Democrat Joseph Baljak, who runs a small construction company, crossed party lines to vote for Trump.
“He’s a businessman and we need somebody to run a country like a businessman,” the 61-year-old Baljak said
Ohio voters also were casting ballots in the presidential election, in a U.S. Senate race, in congressional and state legislative races and several local school issues.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland looked at first like the Democrats’ most formidable contender to flip a Senate seat in his party’s favor before more than $50 million was spent by outside groups against him. That, combined with key union endorsements and a notable voter outreach and turnout program by Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, turned Strickland’s early advantage in the race into a double-digit deficit in polls headed into Tuesday.
Beyond the high-profile contests, Ohio residents are to decide winners Tuesday in three state Supreme Court races, 99 state House districts and 16 of 33 state Senate districts.
Democrats hope to cut into significant Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. Roughly a dozen races are seen as competitive in the House, where Democrats seek to re-take seats lost two years ago and a couple districts vacated by Republicans. The House GOP won 65 seats in 2014, a high-water mark for the caucus.
In state Supreme Court races, judges are running for two open seats while Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is unopposed for a second term.
At least five Ohio communities are deciding whether to decriminalize marijuana after the state legalized medicinal cannabis under limited circumstances in a law enacted in September.
Proposals to ban the gas drilling technique hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are on ballots in Waterville and in Youngstown, marking opponents’ sixth attempt.