Early voting starts today!


Illinois voters can start casting their ballots Thursday as candidates for governor, attorney general and Congress still have more than five weeks of nonstop campaigning before the November election.


The early voting that starts Thursday is limited. Both Cook County and the city only will have one location open at the start, both downtown. Those options expand significantly starting Oct. 22, and early voters tend to pick up the pace closer to Election Day.

But there are early signs of heavy interest in the Nov. 6 election, officials say. Mail ballots start going out Thursday, too, and Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman James Allen said about 50,000 voters already have requested them. That’s compared to 18,000 at this point for the presidential election two years ago.
“We’re seeing numbers that are off the charts when it comes to vote by mail requests,” Allen said. “Voter interest is extremely strong.”

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of early voting starting Thursday.

No takebacks: Once you vote, that’s it. Early voting lets you avoid long lines on Election Day and cast your ballot on your own terms. But if you learn something distasteful about your favored candidate after you cast your ballot, you don’t get to change your pick on Nov. 6.

Limited spots: Each election authority — usually counties — only has to have one early voting location open until Oct. 22. For Cook County, it’s at 69 W. Washington St. For city residents, it’s at 175 W. Washington St. Collar county voters can check the websites of their clerks or election officials to find polling places.

Registration options: You have to register before you can vote. Options for doing so include Secretary of State offices, election offices, and elsewhere. Residents also can register online. The standard deadline to register in person is Oct. 9, and the deadline online is Oct. 21. After that, there’s a grace period when people can register and vote simultaneously at early polling places.

Procrastinators: Most early voters wait until closer to Election Day to cast their ballots. An example: In suburban Cook County, 718 votes were cast in the March primary before the number of early polling places expanded. In the end, nearly 108,000 people voted early.

What’s up: You might be hearing a lot about the Chicago mayoral race right now, but none of those candidates are on the November ballot. The main event in Illinois this fall is Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s re-election bid against Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker. Congressional races are up, too, including a couple of hotly contested battles in the suburbs. Statewide seats like the battle between Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul and Republican Erika Harold for attorney general are on the ballot, as are contests for state legislature. Judges and county officials are up, too. The Illinois State Board of Elections also can be a resource.


Mike Riopell
Chicago Tribune




Twitter @mikeriopell



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