Suburbs to ramp up early voting starting Monday
Suburban voters already have cast more than 266,000 early or mail-in ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, with early voting slated to expand across the region starting Monday.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a heated political climate, advance voting counts have far exceeded the volume reported in previous election years, state and local election authorities say. Voters have encountered large crowds and long wait times since early voting began at limited locations Sept. 24 in the collar counties and Oct. 7 in suburban Cook County.
With dozens of additional sites opening Monday, DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek is offering a word of advice to early voters who want to cast their ballots in person: Don't procrastinate.
"Typically, lines become longer at early voting closer to Election Day," she said in a statement. "If a voter intends to go to an early voting site, the sooner the better."
Since the March primary, DuPage has increased the number of early voting locations from 12 to 18 to include previously underserved areas, Kaczmarek said. The DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton has been open for early voting for more than three weeks.
As of Thursday, roughly 13,709 DuPage voters had cast their ballots in person, the second most of all Illinois election agencies, behind the city of Chicago, according to data compiled by the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Records show 12,461 early votes have been cast in Kane County, 8,486 in suburban Cook, 4,715 in Lake, 5,198 in McHenry and 6,376 in Will.
At 210,253 votes as of Thursday, the state total was more than double the number of early votes cast three weeks before the 2016 election, State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said. And those counts don't include mail-in ballots.
About 1.1 million suburban residents have requested to vote by mail, accounting for half the applications received statewide. The Illinois total is more than eight times the number of applications reported at this time in the last presidential election cycle, Dietrich said.
So far, 583,280 mail-in ballots have been returned, 215,417 of which were completed by voters in suburban Cook and the collar counties, data shows.
The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 29, though Dietrich said waiting that long "really cuts it close" to Election Day. Ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received within 14 days to be counted in final tallies.
County clerks are bracing for the number of outstanding ballots not yet received by Election Day, warning that it could be days or weeks before candidates in tight races know whether they've won. The State Board of Elections is keeping track of the unreturned mail ballots so voters can see the potential for vote totals to change.
Those who have put off the vote-by-mail process are encouraged to vote in person, whether it be on Election Day or at an early voting site, Kaczmarek said.
County clerks are ramping up early voting Monday, with 17 sites available in Lake County, 11 in McHenry, 24 in Will, and more than 50 in suburban Cook. Kane County offers seven permanent early voting sites, eight alternative sites and various mobile locations starting Monday through Oct. 28.
Voters can find early voting locations and hours on the State Board of Elections website at www.elections.il.gov/VotingAndRegistrationSystems/EarlyVotingLocationsSearch.aspx.