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Early Voting Surge Smashes Record Set In 2008, Officials Say

By Heather Cherone | November 7, 2016 7:24am | Updated on November 7, 2016 12:27pm
 Voters lined up outside the early voting super site at 15 W. Washington Monday.
Voters lined up outside the early voting super site at 15 W. Washington Monday.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

DOWNTOWN — Chicagoans eager to cast their vote in the presidential election smashed the early voting record set in 2008 by 9 percent — with one more day to go, officials said.

Through Sunday, 284,506 early ballots had been cast in the election that features the presidential contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

The number of ballots cast on Sunday alone surged nearly 92 percent as compared with the number ballots cast one week before on Oct. 30, officials said.

Election officials have expressed amazement that interest in this presidential election in Chicago has exceeded the 2008 election, when Chicagoan Barack Obama became the first African-American president.

The last day for early voting is Monday, and early voting sites in all 50 wards and the super site at 15 W. Washington St. will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

The record-setting number of early votes is due to a longer early-voting period and extended poll hours.

Outside of Downtown, voters in the 47th Ward — which includes Lincoln Square and Ravenswood — and voters in the 19th Ward — which includes Beverly and Mount Greenwood — have cast the most ballots, elections data shows.

More women than men have cast early votes, Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said.

Cook County Clerk David Orr proclaimed early voting "the big winner" of the 2016 election, which he called "extremely wild."

"It will be a very busy day," Orr said of Election Day, predicting that turnout in suburban Cook County will beat the 76 percent of voters who cast a ballot in 1992's presidential election.

"I worry about our Democracy, but I have been impressed by the voters," Orr said.

More than 105,000 Chicagoans have requested mail ballots, and 64,000 ballots have already been returned, Hernandez said.

That means this election will have the second-highest rate of mail voting in Chicago history, Hernandez said. At the height of World War II in 1944, 116,000 ballots were cast by mail, Hernandez said.

Votes cast by mail must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, Election Day. If you want to ensure that your mail vote is counted, take it to a post office rather than dropping it in a mailbox, Hernandez said.

Voters who requested a mail ballot can take it to their polling place and turn it in and vote on Election Day, Hernandez said.

All ballots cast by mail and during early voting are final and may not be changed, Hernandez said.

Elections officials are prepared for any shenanigans at the polls on Election Day, but dismissed Trump's claims that a "rigged election" could cost him the presidency.

Approximately 500 investigators will be on duty Tuesday to ensure the elections run smoothly.

"This has been a stressful election season for everyone," Hernandez said. "Everyone has the right to cast their vote free of harassment or intimidation."

All polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters waiting in line at the time the polls close must be allowed to vote under state law.

"We will be ready if someone chooses to misbehave," Orr said.

Complaints can be made to each polling place's head election judge and by calling 312-269-7870, officials said.

"We are very confident in the integrity of this election," said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

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