Suburban election trend: More people voting early, by mail

  • More and more people are voting early in Illinois this year.

      More and more people are voting early in Illinois this year. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2012

 
 
Updated 4/1/2015 1:28 PM

As suburban candidates make a final push to get out the vote before Tuesday's election, their efforts may be too late. Some of the vote's already in.

Early and mail-in voting is happening in record numbers across the suburbs this spring, and approximately 36,000 votes had already been cast as of Tuesday -- a full week before the election -- in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Will and McHenry counties, local election officials report.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Statewide, of the 7.5 million registered voters, 131,000 people had already voted in next week's election as of Tuesday, said Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Kyle Thomas.

"It's becoming more popular, as more people find out about it," Thomas said.

If you've already made up your mind on how to vote, it's not too late to apply for a mail-in ballot. The deadline is Thursday. It's also possible to vote early until Saturday, April 4, at designated polling places, most of which are in village and city halls.

For a list of early voting sites, and links for a mail-in ballot application, call your village hall or visit your county's website: cookcountyclerk.com for Cook County, kanecountyelections.org for Kane County, dupageco.org/election for DuPage County, co.mchenry.il.us/county-government/departments-a-i/county-clerk for McHenry County, http://countyclerk.lakecountyil.gov for Lake County and thewillcountyclerk.com for Will County.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said early voting and by-mail voting have become so popular that he expects almost half of all ballots to be cast this way in the November 2016 presidential election.

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"Yes, I do believe you'll see that day," he said. "It could happen earlier than we think."

Candidates sometimes prefer early voting, which started March 23 this year, because they know the sinking feeling of checking the registered voter lists at 5 p.m. on Election Day and seeing the names of their supporters among those who haven't cast ballots yet, Orr said.

During the first week of this year's early voting, 15,845 ballots were cast in Cook County. And as of Monday afternoon, a record 12,165 mail ballots had been requested -- 78 percent of them applied for online.

Positive word-of-mouth is likely to be a factor in changing traditional behaviors.

"They're so convenient," Orr said of early voting and mail voting. "It takes people a while to realize that."

DuPage County election officials said that as of Tuesday, 6,296 people had voted early. That's about 1,100 more than the early ballots cast during the same period in 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Joseph Sobecki, assistant executive director of the DuPage Election Commission, said about 115,000 total votes are projected to be cast in the county during the entire election. Of that amount, more than 10 percent -- about 13,000 -- are expected to be early votes.

More people have been voting early in Will County, too, with 3,898 of the 393,088 registered voters already casting votes, on pace to exceed the 2013 election's early voting total of 5,035.

"You expect it to always be increasing because the word is out," Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said. "People really like voting early."

As of midday Tuesday, about 3,800 people had cast their ballots early at one of Kane County's 18 early voting polling places, Clerk Jack Cunningham said.

In McHenry County, nearly 900 people had cast early ballots so far.

"It's hard to predict. A lot of people wait until the last day (to early vote)," Cunningham said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson, Robert Sanchez and Harry Hitzeman contributed to this report.

Voting: Official predicts almost half of 2016 ballots will be cast early

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