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By the time Election Day rolls around on April 7, the probability is that more than 10 percent of the ballots will have already been cast either by early voting or by absentee ballot, according to figures provided by City Clerk Rodney Greene.
Early voting in the municipal election began March 16, allowing Evanstonians the opportunity to cast ballots up to three weeks before Election Day. To date, more than 1,000 votes have been cast, with the Seventh Ward leading the way in the number of early votes, said Mr. Green, with the Sixth and First Wards not far behind.
Mr. Greene said about 690 persons had voted early as of 3:30 p.m. on March 27. Poll watchers Tom Herrick and Susie Reed told the RoundTable that about 50 voters a day have been filtering through the early voting polling room at the Civic Center since voting began March 16. But the pace is picking up – this reporter was the 1,000th voter on March 27, and several other voters were checking in when the ballot was cast. Five days of early voting remain; early voting ends April 2.
The availability of early voting has not resulted in a decline in absentee voting. Mr. Greene reports that just under 350 absentee ballots have already been received, on par or slightly ahead of the number of such ballots cast in 2005. “I think a lot of people are voting absentee because Election Day is during [the public schools’] spring break,” he said.
In 2005, Mr. Greene said, 11,831 people voted in the mayoral race. With approximately 1,000 having voted early with 5 days of early voting remaining, if roughly the same number of persons vote in the municipal election as voted last time, it is safe to assume that about 10 percent of the 2009 ballots will be cast early.
This reporter found the early voting process quick and easy, with minimal queues and the poll watchers friendly and helpful. So quick was the process, Ms. Reed said, that when one voter expressed concern for a pet left in the car Ms. Reed assured her, “I’ll have you out in three minutes.”
Even if the pace picks up considerably in the last five days, there will still be plenty of votes cast on Election Day. “A lot of folks are still waiting for election day,” said Mr. Greene, adding, “Some of them just don’t trust early voting.”
Regardless of the final number and percentage of total votes cast, early voting should make counting votes at least a little easier on Election Day – perhaps 10 percent easier.