Registered voters can start heading to the polls today to cast their ballots in the primary elections. Cook County Clerk David Orr is encouraging voters to do so.
"You don't have to wait until March 20 to cast a vote in this election," Orr said. "Take advantage of the convenience of Early Voting."
Cook County residents looking to avoid the lines on March 20 can head to one of 42 suburban early voting locations or the one located in downtown Chicago at the Clerk's office. Chicago residents must vote at a city location, which means they must go to the Clerk's downtown office or one located in their ward. A list of early voting places in each Chicago ward is here. Early voting locations and hours in suburban Cook County can be found here. Early voting ends on March 15.
Early voters do not need a specific reason for doing so. They simply need to bring in a government-issued photo ID. Voters will be selecting their choices in the Presidential primary as well as for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature, and Illinois Supreme Court. The March 20 election will also include the circuit court clerk race and local referendums.
Participation in early voting in primary elections has steadily increased in Cook County, according to Orr's office, accounting for about 4.5 percent of voter turnout in the March 2006 primary, 8.7 percent of turnout in the February 2008 primary, and 10.6 percent of turnout in the February 2010 primary election.
Voters will also be able to vote by mail for the March primaries. All requests for a mail-in ballot must be made no later than five days before the election, making the deadline March 15 for the upcoming races. The ability to vote from home may result in a continuation in the uptick seen in early voter participation.
"My job is to make voting more accessible, so we've added yet another tool to our toolkit," Orr said. "If you can't make it to an Early Voting site, you can now use our Vote by Mail Program."
The Associated Press reports that the tight Republican Presidential primary race as well as the number of new candidates running for office as a result of redistricting will also lend to a higher early voter count.