By Jennifer Wessner Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD–Although Election Day is still a week away, many Illinois voters have already stepped inside the voter’s booth and placed their vote.
The polls in Illinois opened for early voting on Oct. 11 and close on Oct. 28. Voters first got the chance to vote early in the run-up to the 2006 general election. Any registered voter who wants to vote early is allowed to regardless of the reason. Early voting has proved to be popular with voters who appreciate the convenience of having more than one day to vote.
Many election experts expected up to 10 percent of voters to vote early. But with only a few days left before early voting closes, many of the state’s larger counties have fallen short of that number.
In Sangamon County, Stacey Kern, director of the election office, said she has seen less than 3 percent of registered voters show up for early voting.
“We’ve had a total so far of 4,196, was our last count,” Kern said.
In Cook County, County Clerk David Orr said this season’s early voting numbers have already outpaced the turnout for early voting in 2006 and 2010’s February primary.
Orr said nearly 50,000 voters have turned out to vote early in Cook County. But that number is dwarfed by the early voting turnout for the 2008 presidential election. In 2008, over 200,000 voters showed up to vote early.
But Cook County Clerk’s Office Spokeswoman Courtney Greve said she expects the current numbers to grow. She said the last four days of early voting have historically led to the biggest turnout.
Orr said competitive races often produce large numbers of early voters.
“For the first time in our history, suburban voters are voting higher in early voting than the city of Chicago,” Orr said. “But what’s happening is we have two very hot congressional races (in the 10th and 8th districts). The campaigns have a lot to do with driving it.”
Georgia Volm, County Clerk of Adams County, said she has seen less than 5 percent of registered voters show up to vote early.
Farther north in Rock Island County, Dianna Ruhl, Acting County Clerk, said she has seen a little less than 7 percent turnout for early voting.
Pamela McCullough, County Clerk for Boone County, said this fall has had heavy turnout for both early voting and absentee voting in the county. She said her office has seen 391 early voters since Oct. 18 out of 33,679 registered voters.
But none of the county clerks had noticed a pattern among the people participating in the early voting program.
Kern in Sangamon County said she hasn’t noticed any similarities in the individuals who have turned up to vote early.
“We’ve kind of seen people from all different ages. We haven’t really seen any specific trend,” said Kern, of Sangamon County.
After early voting closes on Thursday, voters must wait until Election Day on Nov. 2 to cast their ballot.