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CINCINNATI (AP) — After a months-long barrage of campaign commercials and candidate speeches, voters in Ohio are finally answering all the appeals for their support.
Election Day, coming after more than a month of early voting, may bring an end to the intense campaign for the swing state’s 18 electoral votes. Or maybe not.
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.
Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and in places like Franklin County, which includes Columbus, dozens of people arrived early and waited in line at a Shiner’s hall.
Power remained out for about 1,000 customers in part of Cuyahoga County because of Superstorm Sandy, but elections officials reported no problems with voting.
About 25 people lined up outside a polling place north of downtown Cincinnati when it opened. Poll workers at the precinct of about 1,400 voters say that was a lot compared with previous presidential elections.
Natt Wieczorik, a 25-year-old elementary school science teacher who voted Tuesday morning, said he’s a registered Republican but he 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,” Wieczorik said. “I think he has the best vision for where we want to go.”
Elsewhere in Cincinnati, Lawrence Geiger, 60, is an independent who voted for Romney. “He’s got a lot of good issues. I think he is very strong on family issues, and that means a lot to me,” said Geiger, who is a nursing assistant.
As for the economy: “I really don’t think any of them can solve that,” he said.
Polls are to close at 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. “In the close elections, all you need is a little bit of change to affect the outcome.”
Ohio also had one of most hotly contested and expensive U.S. Senate campaigns, with Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel trying to unseat first-term Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. The state also has two fewer congressional districts, with population changes nationally leaving Ohio with 16. Only a handful appeared competitive, with two northeast Ohio incumbents — Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton and Republican James Renacci — facing off.
In legislative races, Democrats overall were hoping to prevent Republicans from adding to their majorities in both houses in the state capital.
Ohioans are also 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. Proponents say this would take an important role out of the hands of partisan politicians. Opponents say the lengthy constitutional amendment is filled with risks and unknowns, and that the commission wouldn’t be accountable.
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.
Justice Yvette McGee Brown of Columbus faced Republican Sharon Kennedy, a Butler County domestic relations judge. McGee Brown was appointed in 2010 to fill a vacancy left when Maureen O’Connor became chief justice. She would need to run again in two years to get a full, six-year term.
Republican Justice Robert Cupp of Lima faced Democrat William O’Neill of Cleveland, a retired appeals court judge who works as a registered nurse. And Republican Justice Terrence O’Donnell of Cleveland was challenged by Democratic state Sen. Mike Skindell of suburban Cleveland.
O’Donnell joined the court in 2003. Cupp was elected in 2006.
Voters also had a variety of local races and issues, including nearly 200 school levies as Ohio schools continue to battle tightening budgets.
By DAN SEWELL