RIVER NORTH — Early voting in the Illinois primary began across the city Monday with a polling place in every ward and another at the Board of Election Commissioners in the Dunne Building, 69 W. Washington Blvd.
Marisel Hernandez, new chairwoman of the board, cast her early ballot Monday following a news conference at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St., the designated early polling place for the 42nd Ward.
"Early voting is a wonderful option," Hernandez said, in that it removes uncertain weather on Election Day, March 15, from the equation and replaces it with the voter's convenience.
With tight races in both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, Hernandez expected a strong turnout.
"Given the contested elections, we will see a decent turnout, hopefully in excess of 50 percent," Hernandez said.
Yet those contested elections also upset new plans, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, to create a 40-day period for early voting in elections.
According to Hernandez and Noah Praetz, director of elections for Cook County Clerk David Orr, who handles voting in the suburbs, it was impossible to begin voting Feb. 4 after candidate registration ended Feb. 1, as petition challenges and other objections made it "unworkable" for a final ballot to be compiled.
Praetz said it was "too early," and pointed to how candidates in the Republican presidential primaries had dropped out since Feb. 4.
Instead, "vote by mail," previously referred to as "absentee" voting, began Feb. 17, with two weeks of early balloting starting Monday. Both officials expected a full 40-day early voting period ahead of the November general election, as ballots should be set by the March primary.
Chicago voters can find their ward polling place at chicagoelections.com. Hernandez recommended that early voters print out a sample ballot for their location and bring it to the polling place to streamline the process and make sure they are given the proper ballot.
Voters can cast their ballots early at ward polling places and the Downtown Election Board site from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through March 12. Some 14 of those locations, designated "permanent early voting sites," will be open Sundays March 6 and 13, as well as evenings the week in between and on March 14. Early voting will also be offered the weekend of March 9 at Northeastern Illinois University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago State University.
Voters can also register at the early voting sites, including on Election Day, although they must vote at the time they register. Two forms of identification are required, including one with the applicant's current address. In addition to driver's licenses and passports, utility bills and any government mail, including school grades, are admissible.
Both Hernandez and Praetz said the state was still a long way from adopting online voting, with Praetz saying, "The security risks are real."
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