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Ohio Absentee Voters Can Use Provisional Ballots

A late-day court ruling Tuesday allowing Ohioans to vote even if they didn't receive absentee ballots on time was among the Election Day bumps in the battleground state.

In Toledo, U.S. District Court Judge David Katz (searchreversed a directive by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (searchwho said voters could not cast provisional ballots despite not receiving their absentee ballots.

Elsewhere, voters waited in hours' long lines, dealt with challengers, battled a steady, chilly rain and in one precinct, survived a swarm of bees, to cast ballots in one of the most anticipated elections in the nation's history.

"The lines are long but the people are engaged and I'm loving it," said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio.

Many elections official said people still in line when the polls close at 7:30 p.m. would be allowed to vote.

Jocelyn Travis, coordinator for the nonpartisan Voter Protection Program (searchin Ohio, said the group was sending lawyers to investigate a precinct in a Hispanic neighborhood in Cleveland where several voters said they were forced to vote provisional ballots. Those are counted later if officials verify that the voter was legally registered and in the correct precinct.

Travis said her group wants to make sure minority voters were not unfairly challenged or purposely left off rolls.

Other complaints included reports of broken voting machines at an east Cleveland neighborhood center and not enough voting machines, Travis said.

"It's been extremely busy," she said. "We've got a lot of problems on the ground."

Elections board spokeswoman Jane Platten said the board was looking into the concerns.

In rural Holmes County, a woman trying to vote at a township hall became upset by bees buzzing around. "We called the trustees about it and the township clerk was going out to spray them or exterminate them somehow," said Mary Riggle, deputy director of the elections board.

Power went out in the late afternoon at the polling place at a Cleveland church. Presiding Judge Jacqueline Atkinson said she used her cell phone and about four others that were rounded up from workers to provide some light for people who continued to cast punch-card ballots.

"Some people were determined to stay and vote and some left, but I don't know how many," Atkinson said.

The lights came back on in the neighborhood after about 30 minutes, and crowds returned to the polling place.

At a precinct near the University of Cincinnati, volunteers from a group called Election Protection wore black T-shirts with a phone number that voters could call if they experienced any problems. None were immediately reported.

In Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, Ohio's most populous, the western Cleveland suburbs of Westlake, Lakewood and Rocky River all asked for and got extra voting machines to help speed things up, said Kim Bartlett, an elections board spokeswoman.

Voters seemed unfazed by the advocates, challengers, lawyers and others posted at polls.

"Anywhere you go you're going to have a whole lot of different people there. Republicans, Democrats, whatever. It didn't bother me," said Cam Chappell, 44, after voting at the St. Paul AME Church in Canton.

Sarah White, a Toledo woman who attends college in Columbus, sued elections officials with help of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, a San Francisco-based group, on behalf of Ohio voters who said they did not receive absentee ballots requested before the Oct. 31 deadline.

It was unclear how many voters were affected. The leader of the group that helped file the lawsuit said several people said they hadn't received the absentee ballots they requested, which is why the group sought a statewide ruling.

Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said the problem was not widespread and that boards were following the ruling.