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Early Voting In Illinois Primary Begins

Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons operates a ballot tabulation machine as part of a formal public testing of voting equipment on February 4th, at the county clerk's storage facility in Urbana.

The Illinois Primary election takes place on March 17. But the casting of ballots begins Thursday, February 6.

Under Illinois’ early voting law, voters can cast their ballots up to forty days before an election, although they won’t be counted until after the polls close on Election Day. Early voters can cast their ballots in person at a county clerk or election authority office, or request a mail-in ballot.

Illinois Newsroom’s Jim Meadows reports.

Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons says he’s counting on about 20 percent of the primary ballots in his county coming in early. He says a strong early voting turnout is not always matched by turnout on Election Day.

 “But I think it’s a good indication that people are excited about the election, and there will be a higher turnout,” said Ammons.

Ammons says that for voters, casting a ballot early is much the same experience as casting one on Election Day. But he says in some cases, the election judge will ask for two pieces of identification.

“Typically, in the state of Illinois, you’re not asked to show I-D,” said Ammons. “But there are some situations that will require a judge to ask you for some identification. So we always encourage you to simply bring a current I-D and a piece of mail with you. And then you won’t have any problems.”

Early voting is intended to encourage greater voter turnout. A brochure published by the Illinois State Board of Elections states, “People who travel for business, work long hours, or are otherwise inconvenienced by the  hours the polls are open on Election Day, may find it easier to vote early.”

I-D is required of voters who have not yet registered to vote, and wish to do so when they cast their ballot. That’s allowed in Illinois during the early voting period, but not on Election Day itself.

In Champaign County, the main early voting location is the county clerk’s office at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana. But Ammons says his office will open additional early voting polling places next month.

Two locations will open March 2nd on the University of Illinois campus, at the Illini Union and the Activities and Recreation Center (known as the ARC).

On March 9th, the week before the primary election, other early voting polling places will open around the county: at the Leonhard Recreation Center, Church of the Living God and Meadowbrook Community Church, all in Champaign; the Elks Pavilion at Lake Of The Woods Park in Mahomet; the Tolono Public Library; Prince Of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Joseph; and First United Methodist Church/The Gathering Place in Rantoul.

Ammons says the campus early voting locations are opening a week earlier than other ones, to give more opportunity to U of I students, who will be on spring break during the week of the March 17th primary.

While state law dictates that early voting begins February 6 throughout Illinois, it’s been delayed in Cook County and Chicago. Ballots there are not yet available, due to a ballot access dispute. A similar dispute delayed early voting in those same jurisdictions during the 2018 primary.


Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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