RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Early voting began in Ohio yesterday. More than a million people have signed up for mail-in ballots, and thousands more began voting in person. From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze reports.
M.L. SCHULTZE, BYLINE: Gray, drizzly days are generally not good days when it comes to voter turnout. And Ohio still has at least another 22 voting days before Election Day. But that didn't stop people from lining up at the Board of Elections and Star County, one of those quintessential swing counties in the quintessential swing state of Ohio. Voters here have been bombarded with TV ads, flyers, phone calls and campaign visits, and constant reminders that Ohio voters have picked the winners in the last 12 presidential contests.
Rose Ehmer and her husband pulled off Interstate 77 on their way to Florida and waited nearly an hour outside the Star County Board of Elections to vote.
ROSE EHMER: We need a change, and I'm ready for the change. That's the bottom line. I want to make sure my vote counts. It's only one vote, but this gives me a right to complain. I voted.
SCHULTZE: The Ehmers were not the first in line. Ray and Ilene Schreffler also have their eye on the presidential race. They've just come to a different conclusion.
RAY SCHREFFLER: We got to vote for Obamacare. My insurance is about ready to max out, and the poor people need a right to vote.
SCHULTZE: Within minutes of the polls opening yesterday, two dozen people were lined up to use the touch-screen voting booths, and more continued to flow in. Meanwhile, election officials have filed extra workers to handle the rush of mail-in absentee ballot requests. They're coming in at twice the pace of four years ago, after the state decided this year to send out absentee applications to every registered voter. That was to settle one of the disputes between the Democrats and Republicans over early voting. Karen Kirksey usually votes by mail, but this year she's taking no chances.
KAREN KIRKSEY: I wanted to make sure I came down to vote this time, because I didn't want any - with all this hearsay about trying to block the vote, I just wanted to make sure I got here and got here early and got it out of the way.
SCHULTZE: And the Obama camp has made early voting a priority, including Get Out the Vote sleepovers Monday night in heavily Democratic areas of the state. Republicans have countered with Commit to Mitt kickoff events, including a mobile phone bank bus tour. Both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge the campaign in Ohio is now shifting from swaying voters towards getting out the votes of those who have already made up their minds.
Star County Democratic party chairman Randy Gonzalez says early voting is important for Democrats, who hope this year will be more like 2008, when Barack Obama won and Ohio Democrats did well in Congress, than 2010, when Republicans swept every non-judicial statewide office, including the governor.
RANDY GONZALEZ: Apathy has been a real big issue here in - particularly in Star County and in Ohio. When you look at what happened two years ago when the Democrats didn't show up to vote, I mean Ted Strickland lost just strictly because of the apathy.
SCHULTZE: Janet Creighton is not conceding the early turnout to the Obama camp, but she isn't worried if it leans that way. The Republican Star County commissioner was an alternate delegate to the GOP National Convention.
JANET CREIGHTON: Republicans are good due diligent voters, so it really doesn't matter to me so much whether they vote today or on November the 6th, as long as they do vote, and that has been the mission all along.
SCHULTZE: And Creighton says many people simply want to vote on Election Day. People like Matt Trent, who says he likes the neighborly feel of a precinct, but one thing could make him vote early.
MATT TRENT: If there's someone who ran on policy saying if you vote early or vote for me I'll stop campaign ads and all that, I would definitely do it. I feel like it's a waste of money on both sides.
SCHULTZE: It's a nice idea, but nothing is going to stop the TV ads except maybe November 7, the day after Election Day. For NPR News, I'm M.L. Schultze in Canton, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.