Early voting starts Monday

Updated 3/13/2011 5:11 PM
  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comCook County Clerk David Orr

    JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comCook County Clerk David Orr

Suburban voters can hit the polls early starting Monday to begin picking from scores of candidates for mayor, school board and other local government jobs.

Suburban election officials say interest in voting early is generally rising as people who know they'll be busy working and commuting on Election Day discover the convenience of getting it out of the way ahead of time.

There are other benefits, too, officials say.

"It cuts down on any congestion," said Doreen Nelson, assistant executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission. "Not that there will be any congestion this election."

Though local officials often have some of the biggest impacts on residents' lives, officials say they don't expect a lot of voting in the municipal elections this year.

McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz said that judging by the few absentee ballot requests she's received so far, she doesn't expect a big turnout for early voting or otherwise.

"This is the least well-attended party we throw," said Linda Mitchell, Kane County's director of elections.

Perhaps partly for that reason, some suburban candidates plan to try to persuade voters to cast their ballots early -- especially in close races. The more people they can get to vote early, the more votes they might get overall.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said while early voting is becoming more popular as more people learn about it, it's the candidates and campaigns that really drive up numbers.

So if elections this year aren't as hotly contested as they were in 2009, early voting numbers might actually go down.

"A big part of early voting growth is the campaigns encouraging people," Orr said.

But some campaigns -- those facing little or no competition -- might not focus much on early voting and instead rely on the small group of motivated voters that is most likely to vote in a municipal election.

The most motivated can start voting early Monday until March 31. Absentee ballots are already available. Residents can check their local county's website for early voting locations.

Orr said that between early voting and residents' ability to now cast absentee ballots early without giving an excuse, candidates' and voters' views of Election Day might continue to evolve.

While elections used to be focused on a single day of voting, now people can extend that process over a month, forcing candidates and voters to adapt.

"It's a mindset change," Orr said.