Early voting off to fast start in suburbs

 
 
Updated 10/27/2016 5:36 PM
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  • Voters cast their ballots Thursday for the Nov. 8 election at Naperville's city hall. Suburban election officials say early voting is running at a record-breaking clip.

      Voters cast their ballots Thursday for the Nov. 8 election at Naperville's city hall. Suburban election officials say early voting is running at a record-breaking clip. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Whether it's enthusiasm for a candidate or a desire to avoid long lines, record numbers of suburban voters are casting ballots before Election Day.

In suburban Cook County, for example, nearly 26,000 residents took part in the first day of early voting on Monday. By the end of the day Wednesday, the number had climbed to 73,643.

In addition to traditional early voting, County Clerk David Orr on Thursday said he expects more than 100,000 suburban Cook residents to vote by mail before the Nov. 8 election.

"What we're seeing with this election is intense interest in many contests, from the presidential race to races for U.S. Senate, Congress as well as statewide and countywide contests," Orr said in a statement. "Additionally, voters want to make sure that they don't encounter Election Day lines at the polls, so they're taking advantage of both early voting and voting by mail."

Early voting also is off to a running start elsewhere.

Kane County officials said more than 20,500 early votes had been cast as of Thursday morning.

And Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff said an average of about 7,000 early votes are being cast each day in the county. If that trend continues, Lake will receive more than 100,000 early votes by Nov. 8.

Experts say there are several factors driving those figures.

The first is that more people are aware of early voting. It also could represent a sense that they want to get the election over with, according to Phillip Hardy, an associate professor of political science at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Another possibility is that there's a higher degree of enthusiasm for people to vote.

"People just have very strong opinions," Hardy said, "whether they're supportive of a candidate or they're voting to try to prevent another candidate from winning."

Wyckoff said she believes there is "an unprecedented interest in the presidential election."

Counties also are promoting early voting, which has become easier and more accessible. The Kane County Clerk's office, for example, has been running advertisements in newspapers, on signs and on screens at movie theaters.

"I think that is helping to drive it," Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said.

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan said there's a simple reason more than 11,000 of the county's roughly 215,000 registered voters have cast early votes.

"They just don't want to stand in line on Election Day," McClellan said.

In DuPage County, election officials say about 110,000 voters are projected to cast ballots before Nov. 8. They predict another 40,000 residents will vote by mail.

Combined, those figures represent about one-fourth of DuPage's roughly 614,000 registered voters.

DuPage Election Commission Executive Director Bob Saar said the number of early voters is expected to exceed the 2008 general election, when Barack Obama first ran for president.

But Brian Krajewski, chairman of the DuPage Republican Party, questioned whether the early voting totals will translate to bigger voter turnout overall.

Krajewski said early voting in 2012 didn't trigger a larger turnout in DuPage compared to the 2008 presidential election.

"These people voting now may just be people who used to vote on Election Day," Krajewski said. "They're just getting it done and out of the way. Then on Election Day, you might not have as many voters."

• Staff writers Susan Sarkauskas and Lee Filas contributed to this report

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