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US Voting in Local Elections, Deciding Ballot Issues

Poll workers Bertha Moses, left, and Florine Williams, check Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's driver's license as part of the voter ID procedure for anyone who casts a ballot, in a Jackson, Mississippi, precinct, Nov. 3, 2015.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is a year way, but voters throughout the country are voting Tuesday to fill state and local government positions and in referendums on issues affecting their communities.

Voters in two states are electing governors. Pre-election polls show Republican Governor Phil Bryant headed to easy re-election in the southern state of Mississippi. In the mid-south state of Kentucky, however, Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway and conservative Republican businessman Matt Bevin are locked in a tight contest.

Voters in the large Midwest state of Ohio, long a bellwether in presidential elections, are deciding whether to legalize the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. If approved, the state would become the first in the culturally conservative central part of the country to sanction marijuana use, and the fifth to do so across the United States.

The Ohio ballot issue is unusual in that it would authorize growing marijuana on 10 farms owned by prominent investors, rather than allowing individuals to grow their own for personal use, as has occurred in other states where use of the drug has been legalized. Polls show Ohio voters are split evenly on the issue.

In the western state of Colorado, where marijuana use is already legal, voters are deciding what do with $66 million in tax revenue generated by the sale of recreational marijuana.

Non-discrimination protections

In the southern city of Houston, Texas — the fourth largest city in the United States — voters are deciding whether to approve non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. The measure is supported by the city's openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, but opposed by a coalition of conservative religious leaders.

Fifteen Republicans and three Democrats are vying for their party's 2016 presidential nominations to succeed President Barack Obama, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal political survey Tuesday mirrored other recent national polls, showing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a large lead for the Democratic nomination and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with a narrow edge over billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump in the Republican contest.

The first voting in the long presidential nominating process for the two parties is set for February in the central state of Iowa and the rural northeastern state of New Hampshire.

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