A ballot question would allow Ohio to become the first state to legalize marijuana for both recreational and medical use in a single stroke, but opponents are placing their hopes on a separate measure aimed at nullifying the idea.
A legislative redistricting overhaul rounds out the trio of statewide ballot issues before voters. Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, with turnout expected to be low as early presidential politicking largely overshadowed campaigns and exacerbated the voter disinterest that generally accompanies an off-year election.
A small but steady stream of voters cast their ballots at an elementary school in the northern Cincinnati suburb of West Chester in the first hour after polls opened.
Beth Zielenski, 40, of West Chester, is a mother of one who said she voted no on Issue 3, the marijuana question. She said she thinks a lot of regulations need to be worked out first, particularly with edible pot products.
"It does worry me," Zielenski said.
Timothy Shearer, 47, was also among the early voters in West Chester and said he voted yes to Issue 3.
"I don't think it will cause more problems," he said. "I think most problems come from the harder drugs."
Shearer, who described himself as a "military guy," said he has never been a "user," but thinks people should have a right to choose.
Issue 3 would allow adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use pot recreationally as well as make it available for medical uses.
The campaign has poured at least $12 million into ads delivering different messages to voting blocs around the state, but it also faced a well-organized opposition campaign led by children's hospitals and public safety advocates opposed to increased access to pot and products containing marijuana.
State lawmakers mounted the anti-monopoly initiative known as Issue 2 specifically to undercut the marijuana proposal. The marijuana measure would establish a network of 10 exclusive growing sites, but the second question would prohibit monopolies, oligopolies and cartels that deliver economic gain to individuals from being inserted into Ohio's constitution.
Issue 1, the redistricting measure, would establish a new system for drawing Ohio's state legislative districts, which number 33 in the Ohio Senate and 99 in the Ohio House. Its top ballot billing signals the initiative is a priority of state leaders of both parties, who came up with the plan in a historic bipartisan compromise struck last year.
It would establish a seven-member commission comprised of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four legislative appointees to draw the lines. Two minority-party votes would be needed to adopt a 10-year legislative map. Without them, the majority could draw a map lasting only four years — an unattractive prospect to the long-term planning of politicians and political parties.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement Tuesday that an informal survey of Ohio's 88 county boards of election showed 383,375 of the 483,953 absentee ballots requested had been cast as voters headed to the polls.
Husted said ballots could be delivered in person to election boards through the close of the polls Tuesday. They cannot be returned at polling locations.
Polls close at 7:30 p.m.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.