US presidential election hangs in the balance in battleground Ohio

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Polls close in the battleground state of Ohio as the nation waits for find out who will be the next US president.
Cora Edmondson, 78, a Hillary Clinton supporter who had to go to the hospital but insisted on voting in Cleveland, Ohio. ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH
Voters fill out their ballots at St Lawrence Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the US presidential election on Nov 8, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

CLEVELAND, OHIO - A cold wind is blowing chilly rain and red and yellow autumn leaves across the parking lot of the Bay Presbyterian Church, where a steady trickle of voters has been arriving through the day, undeterred by the bad weather that descended in the afternoon.

This is Bay Village, Ohio, on the shores of vast Lake Erie. Most of the front lawns in this predominantly white and wealthy town feature Donald Trump signs.

But like everything else in this US presidential election, there is potential for the unexpected.

At the church where a voting station has been set up, Ms Jacqueline Gall, 45, voted at around 2pm. On her way out, she told The Straits Times she had been undecided until the very last minute.

"We have Donald Trump and Hillary coming at the same time, with different views, I was stuck, completely undecided," she said. "To be really honest I hate to admit it but I have a problem with a woman president. But I voted for her in the end anyway."

But she added: "Everybody I know - besides my co-workers at the pet store - is voting for Trump."

Ms Casey Calvey, 61, a longtime Hillary Clinton supporter, said despite the fact that the town was largely red, some Republicans had indicated that they may vote for Mrs Clinton.

Mr Trump's attitude towards women had turned her off them, she said. "That, and the fact that the man is scary. He's unstable," she added.

The 70-year-old real estate tycoon has run an unconventional, angry campaign in which he has denigrated minorities, made fun of a disabled man, and hectored the "dishonest" media at his rallies where his supporters have chanted "Lock her up! Lock her up'' in a reference to his opponent, Mrs Clinton.

In contrast to the two women voters, Mr Richard Stark, a retired policeman and fire fighter, had no such doubts.

Citing controversy over Mrs Clinton's deletion of thousands of e-mails, which Mr Trump has called criminal, the 66-year-old said: ''Hillary Clinton has access to classified documents. She is so unqualified. You just can't put someone of that moral character in charge of the nation."

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Another man, Mr Henry Barnes, 57, told The Straits Times he had also been undecided for a long time. But he voted for Mr Trump.

"Hillary has been in political office for a long time and I've seen no progress," he said.

"As far as Trump goes, who knows what he can do, he hasn't had a chance. Hillary has had opportunities and it seems there are a lot of black marks by her name.'

"We have got to cut taxes, we have got to get jobs, that's kind of key for everybody."

But, reflecting the confusion of a long and acrimonious election season that has deeply divided Americans and exposed long-hidden racial, economic and social fault lines, he said: "A lot of it's hard to decipher because you don't know who is telling the truth - because they all tell you one thing and it ends up not being what it is."

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Ohio is a battleground state with 18 electoral votes; a candidate needs 270 from the 50 states and the US capital to become president - and Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton have been running virtually neck and neck in pre-election polls. The voting record shows the state leans Republican but can be won by Democrats; moreover, Ohio has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1964, including President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

The increasingly ethnically diverse city of Cleveland in particular, is quite solidly Democrat as opposed to affluent largely white Republican suburbs and depressed small post-industrial towns; the state's once mighty steel industry for instance is now a shadow of its former self.

In the city, at the Fairfax Recreation Centre in an African-American neighbourhood, 44-year-old African American Richard Anderson, manager of another recreation centre, told The Straits Times : "We feel Hillary Clinton addressed all our questions adequately, everyone came here with a positive outlook, trying to get Hillary elected.

"We believe she'll do a lot for the economy, for the inner city - at least way more than Donald Trump.

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"Donald Trump is a paradox. It's good that he shows the American dream (that) anyone can run for president. But it's a shame that he has no clue."

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