Ohio in the Middle of Blitz Of Battleground States

CINCINNATI (AP) – The final campaign blitz hit the presidential battleground state of Ohio on Sunday as the main candidates made stops throughout the state while volunteers tried feverishly to persuade residents to their side and get them to vote early.

Activist and faith-based groups canvassed door-to-door and held “souls to the polls” events to transport voters from churches to early-voting sites, where people in some of the most populous counties stood in long lines in the cold to cast their ballots.

The county elections boards in Cincinnati and Columbus said anyone already in line by the 5 p.m. closing time would still be able to vote, but warned that late arrivals would be turned away.

At the Hamilton County Board of Elections in downtown Cincinnati, hundreds of voters waited in an hours-long line that snaked around a city block on a chilly and breezy day.

Some read books while they waited, others made friends with strangers and joked around, and while many complained about the long wait, they stayed.

“I just had a good, upbeat spirit and I feel like I’m making a difference. Those things kept me warm,” said Danielle Benning, a 40-year-old Cincinnati resident who waited in line for two hours. “I feel great to be in a battleground state where we can make a difference.”

Benning said a legal dispute over early-voting hours in the state that could have stopped voters from casting ballots this weekend made her feel that her vote was that much more important.

“It wasn’t fair and I want to make sure my right to vote is preserved,” she said. “It’s my God-given right.”

Many in the crowd also were met by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who arrived with hundreds of voters on a bus from six local churches as part of an effort known as “souls to the polls.”

Although he shook hands, hugged voters and smiled for photos, he sharply criticized the fact that they had to wait so long to cast their ballot.

“This is a fraud,” he said. “This is an overt attempt to sabotage democracy. You shouldn’t have to stand this long in line to vote.”

Jackson said that all voting precincts should have been open this weekend, hours should have been longer and more voting machines should be inside each polling place.

But he said the voters are determined to make their voice heard.

“You see that line?” he said. “It’s cold out, but these people will be here until midnight if they have to.”

Volunteers in Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and other cities were driving residents to early voting sites in events arranged by the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that says it pursues social change.

Clint Elmore, who helped arrange a Columbus event at his church, said voters and volunteers are keenly aware the election could be close and Ohio could be key, and that’s why he’s involved in voter education and get-out-the-vote events.

“Quite possibly, I could make a difference in an election – me, personally – and that’s the way I looked at it,” said Elmore, 52, who had cast his ballot earlier. “And that means like changing history.”

In a sign of Ohio’s importance, the main presidential candidates and their running mates were all visiting the state at some point Sunday.