Early voting looks to boost election numbers; Cook County on track to double early voting numbers

Early voting got underway Monday in Cook County and many voters are taking advantage of the chance to cast their ballots ahead of the March 18 primary.
March 3, 2014 3:22:58 PM PST
Early voting got underway Monday in Cook County and many voters are taking advantage of the chance to cast their ballots ahead of the March 18 primary.

To give you an idea how well early voting is catching on, Cook County is on track to double the amount of early voters it had on the first day four years ago, with more sites and extended days.

Extra voting machines are being set up in Evanston, while in Chicago, a line of election judges are ready and waiting as early voting has begun.

Myrna Jefferson decided to exercise her civic duty as soon as she could.

"I will be working on voting day, so I come to do my early voting," she said.

Early voting is open to any registered voter. You don't need a reason or an excuse, although you will need a government-issued photo ID. While primaries typically have low voter turnouts in Illinois, Chicago's Board of Election Chairman Langdon Neal and some voters are convinced early voting will boost those numbers.

"The convenience of early voting does increase the amount of votes, I do believe in that," Neal said.

"I think early voting accommodates other people that would not vote at all, it's an option," said voter Thomas Plum.

This year, early voting has become even more convenient. It will now be open until the Saturday before the March 18 primary. In past elections, early voting ended on the Thursday before Election Day.

"So by voting on Friday or Saturday we pick up a lot of people who made up their minds last minute and come out to vote last minute," said Cook County Clerk David Orr.

While the Republican gubernatorial race is getting the most attention, it will not be a major draw in a Democratic Cook County.

Despite that, elections officials are optimistic that turnout will be higher for this year's primary than four years ago. A new state law allowing 17-year-olds, who will be 18 by the general election, to vote in the primary will help. Five thousand 17-year-olds are registered to vote in Cook County alone.

"So that is a good sign, whether or not they'll vote, we don't know, but they'll probably do better than their parents," Orr said.

Orr says in all Illinois counties there was a big push to register the 17-year-olds and dozens of high schools helped by holding registration drives.

In the city of Chicago, there are now 51 different sites where you can early vote. All sites are open from 9-5, Monday through Saturday. Three sites will be open on Sundays.


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