Voters cast their ballots at UAW Local 14 in Toledo, Ohio. (J. D. Pooley / Getty Images )
WORTHINGTON, Ohio – More than an hour before dawn, a line started forming outside the Worthington Presbyterian Church polling station in this suburb of Columbus. So it went all over Ohio on Tuesday as voters turned out in force to play their outsized role in electing the president.
“It’s something people around here take some pride in – that we have maybe a disproportionate amount of control in the outcome,” said Doug Metz, a retired Worthington lawyer who showed up at the church a few hours later to cast his ballot for Mitt Romney.
For many in Ohio, the ritual of casting ballots in person at schools and churches also came with a great sense of relief that the long, ugly campaign was finally drawing to an close.
PHOTOS: America goes to the polls
“Awful – just awful,” said Penny Dietrich, 63, a Worthington homemaker. “Both sides.”
Romney, President Obama and their allies were running no fewer than 18 television commercials on Columbus stations in the campaign’s final days. Adding to the clutter were attack ads in campaigns for judgeships, the county sheriff’s job and seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
Over the weekend, some Obama opponents began running some of the harshest spots of the campaign.
INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map
A group called Secure America Now, led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and other prominent conservatives, showed Obama on what was labeled as “Arab TV,” with Arabic writing at the bottom of the screen, saying the U.S. had often dictated its will to foreign countries. “Time to get rid of this sorry president,” an announcer says.
Another group, Special Ops Opsec Education Fund, started running its ad accusing Obama of lying about the deadly Sept. 11attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya and leaking highly classified secrets, “endangering real heroes and families.”
The impact was diluted, however, by scores of other withering ads against Obama over the last six months. They often ran back to back with spots bashing Romney with no less fervor.
VIDEO: The best, and worst, of the year’s political ads
“We either had to listen to a guy we like a lot tell lies, or hear a guy we can’t stand tell lies,” Daniel Ave, 52, said after voting Tuesday morning at the North United Methodist Church in Columbus.
Ave, who works at the YMCA, said the president did what he had to do to win, and he remains an avid Obama supporter.
“His wife drives the bus in his family; my wife drives the bus in my family,” Ave said with a laugh.
Election officials said voting was running smoothly in Ohio, with no more than minor glitches with voting equipment and long lines that indicated heavy turnout.
“It seems like everyone’s coming out of the woodwork today,” said Rebecca Wenden, the chief poll worker at the Worthington church, where several dozen voters were lined up late Tuesday morning at the ballot stations.
But it remained to be seen whether Obama or Romney had spurred a stronger turnout of supporters in the state that is most likely to decide the election. Lawyers for both candidates were monitoring the Ohio vote closely in preparation for litigation in case the result is too close to call on Tuesday night.
A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by a Green Party congressional candidate, Robert Fitrakis, for a restraining order barring the state from using the vote-counting software that many Ohio counties rely upon for vote tabulation.
“The system is not only safe, it is much improved since the last presidential election,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement reacting to the ruling. “As the world watches Ohio tonight, they will benefit from more accurate and timely reports of voting results.”
The polls in Ohio close at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook