As candidates for political office vie for position several weeks ahead of the March 18 primary election, voters could begin on Thursday requesting ballots by mail to vote in advance.
Until March 13, registered voters can apply to receive an absentee ballot from their county offices. The ballots can be filled out and mailed back or returned in person, giving voters a chance to start making their picks well before primary Election Day and even two weeks ahead of the start of early voting on March 3.
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And getting an early absentee ballot keeps getting easier.
"This year you can make that application on the Internet without a signature," Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said.
However, Helander did warn of a potential annoyance: When you apply online, your email address is added to public records that candidates often use to find likely voters.
"If you don't like getting robocalls, then you might not like having your inbox full of political emails," Helander said.
The deadline to register to vote in the primary is Feb. 18. Later, the process known as early voting starts on March 3, when people can go into local voting places and vote in person before Election Day.
However, McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz said people considering early voting should remember to bring a valid state ID with them, as it is required.
Some election officials have promoted the chance to vote early because it can help ease long lines on Election Day.
A downside of casting an early ballot can occur if you learn something you don't like about your preferred candidate after you've mailed in your picks.
"If something comes out and you've already voted, you can't change your vote," Helander said.
Cook County Clerk David Orr has used this week to try to promote primary voting among 17-year-olds. A new state law allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they turn 18 before the November general election.