By Kevin Lee Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD – Friday marked 60 days before the state’s general election on Nov. 2, but voters have the opportunity to submit their votes as early as the end of this month.
Registered voters can receive and submit absentee ballots beginning Sept. 23. They can also show up at designated early voting locations between Oct. 11 and Oct. 28, including weekends, to turn in their ballots.
Rupert Borgsmiller, assistant executive director for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the early voting dates and absentee ballots allow the county clerks and the State Board more time to process votes.
“The judges aren’t having to process all of the numbers that they would normally expect, that would come through the precinct. A lot of those (ballots to count) have gone down on the day of the election because (of) the people going and voting early,” he said.
One new wrinkle for this year’s election is the mandated addition of public universities as locations for early voting and grace-period registration.
This summer, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new law that would require county clerks to establish early voting and grace-period registration in “high-traffic” sites for each of the state’s nine public universities.
Grace-period registration creates a streamlined registration process for those previously unregistered to vote, and is scheduled to go from Oct. 6 to Oct. 26.
The new public university law is a pilot program that would expire in 2011, after the conclusion of this November’s general election.
Larry Reinhardt, Jackson County clerk in southern Illinois, said early voters make up around 20 percent of all voters in his area. He expected to see an uptick in the percentage of early voters for this general election.
“Political parties and some voter groups are gearing up for a heavy early-vote drive, a get-out-the-vote effort. So it’ll be interesting to see which one is more effective and whether any of them are effective,” he said.
Megan Nelson, chief deputy clerk for McLean County, said they were using press releases and newspaper reports to spread word about early voting.
Nelson added that county administrators were focused on getting the vote out at Illinois State University.
“We’ve asked the president of Illinois State (Dr. Al Bowman) to please also submit this letter to all the students via e-mail. So we’re trying to get it out to students that we will have (an early voting site) there,” she said.
Borgsmiller was not sure how overall voter turnout would be affected by early voting, but he did think early voting would become more popular because it creates a greater number of voting opportunities.
To learn more about early voting, visit the website of the Illinois State Board of Elections at: http://www.elections.il.gov/