SPRINGFIELD -- With a little more than a week to go until Election Day, more than 6 percent of Illinois’ record 8 million active registered voters have already cast their ballots, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
As of Thursday morning, 485,410 Illinoisans had voted in the Nov. 8 election either by mail, in person or using grace period registration, which allows people to register and cast their ballots at the same time.
In the 2014 general election, about 6.6 percent of registered voters cast their ballots early, accounting for 13 percent of the overall turnout of nearly 3.7 million. In 2012, the last presidential election year, nearly 16 percent of active registered voters voted before Election Day, representing 22 percent of the nearly 5.3 million ballots cast.
Jim Tenuto, a spokesman for the elections board, said early voting has become increasingly popular as the state has expanded opportunities for people to cast ballots ahead of time.
Voters could begin casting ballots Sept. 29 by mail and at the offices of local election authorities. More early voting locations opened across the state Monday and will remain open daily through Nov. 7.
Given the contentious presidential race and the fact that this is the first general election in which residents of Illinois’ more populated counties will be able to register at their polling places on Election Day, it’s hard to predict what the overall turnout will be, Tenuto said.
“It just seems like with all the registrations going up that hopefully that translates to a big turnout,” he said.
The previous state record for active registered voters was a little less than 7.8 million in 2008, the year then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois won the presidency. Overall turnout that year was nearly 72 percent.
So far this year, Rock Island County is among the top five jurisdictions for early voting, with 10.6 percent of the county’s 98,732 active registered voters having already cast ballots.
The northwestern Illinois county is also one of the areas from which the Illinois attorney general’s office has heard complaints about voters not receiving mail-in ballots after sending in applications they received from third parties, spokeswoman Eileen Boyce said.
Advocacy groups, political parties and others often distribute applications for mail-in ballots, which is legal, but voters who send in the applications should make sure they’ve been received by their local election authority, the attorney general’s office said Thursday in an alert.
Those wishing to vote by mail must fill out an application, which their local election authority must receive by Nov. 3, the attorney general’s office said. Once voters receive their ballots, they must fill out, sign and postmark them by Nov. 8. They can also be hand-delivered to the local election authority by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The attorney general’s office and the state elections board encourage those who have requested or submitted a mail-in ballot to follow up with their local election authority to make sure they’ve been received. Contact information can be found at elections.il.gov.
Those who’ve applied and haven’t received a ballot or received one but haven’t sent it in are allowed to vote in person, either early or on Election Day.
Aside from Rock Island County, early voting rates are higher than the statewide average in several downstate jurisdictions.
The early voting rate so far is 8.1 percent in Coles County, 7.5 percent in Jackson County and 7.3 percent in Macon County.