Early voting begins at 51 Chicago sites

44 sites open in Cook Co. suburbs Monday
CHICAGO Voters can cast their ballots between now and October 30. And so far, it's proving to be a very popular option.

In February, more than 80,000 Chicago voters cast their ballots early for the primary election. And the Chicago Board of Elections expects that number to double for the election in November.

"I'm working Election Day in Indiana as an election monitor. So I got to vote early," said voter Chris Ehresman.

"If I have a chance early to vote, why not? I've made up my mind. I'm very clear and decisive about who I want," said voter Steven Moss.

Illinois and Indiana are among 34 states and the District of Columbia that now allow early voting.

The city of Chicago offers 51 early voting sites, suburban Cook County 44, DuPage County has 15 locations, by Tuesday, Kane County will open 14 sites and McHenry another ten. Early voting is also available in various locations in Will County but on an irregular schedule.

"Everybody who is a registered voter can vote early. It's not like voting absentee by mail where you need a reason," said David Orr, Cook County clerk.

Outside the city's downtown early voting polling place at 69 West Washington, Cook County state's attorney candidate Anita Alvarez did some "last minute" campaigning more than three weeks before Election Day.

"It is more work because you're not just focusing on what happens on Election Day. You're focusing on today, the 13th of October," said Alvarez, (D) Cook Co. state's attorney candidate.

And her opponent, Tony Peraica, also realized how early voting can change the way a candidate campaigns.

"We have had an outreach program going throughout for absentee ballots. We have buses organized, small buses, to get seniors in who want to go and vote early," said Peraica, (R) Cook Co. state's attorney candidate.

Thousands of voters in Cook County cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election before noon Monday morning. Early voting opened in suburban Cook County at 8:30 and at 9 a.m. in the city. Within the first 90 minutes, 2,500 people voted in the city, and 1,100 voted in the Cook County suburbs. By midday, a record nearly 5,000 Chicagoans had cast ballots in the 2008 election.

The polling place at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago, was packed first thing Monday morning. Many voters say being able to get it done now rather than waiting for Election Day is a big help.

Early Voting Locations:

Chicago voting locations

Suburban Cook County voting locations

For other Illinois counties, visit ABC7's Next Generation Politics and click on 'resources.' From there you can select your county.

For poll times visit www.earlyvoters.com.

"I think it's fantastic. I did it for the primary. So yeah, it gets out of the way. I don't have to be bothered going to my local office in all the confusion," said Ella Foster, early voter.

"I like it a lot. I mean, I'm used to the old way, but this is so simple," said Carole Milkowski, early voter.

Early voting has been around in Illinois since March of 2006, but this is the first presidential election to use it, and voter interest appears to be high.

Chicago Board of Election officials say they have registered more than 60,000 new voters within the last week alone, which is an unprecedented number. They say they are counting on early voting to help ease crowds on Election Day.

"We expect long lines on Election Day, so take advantage of early voting. You can go to any of the 51 sites. You don't have to go to your particular polling place," said Langdon Neal, Chicago Election Board chairman.

At Access Living there were high hopes that early voting will make the process much more accessible for thousands of disabled voters.

"Sometimes people need assistance to get to a polling place or they may need a pair of transit vehicles. All those things make the logistics just a little bit more spectacles. And, therefore, being able to do it as you're out and about doing your other business we think will have a big impact on our voting range," said Marca Bristo, Access Living president/CEO.

Even though Monday is Columbus Day, a federal holiday, voting began not only in Cook County but also in Lake, DuPage, and Kane County. Because this is a federal holiday, several other counties -- Will, McHenry, Kankakee and DeKalb -- are all waiting until Tuesday to begin voting.

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