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Low turnout for early voting

The head of the Chicago Board of Elections was in the familiar position Monday of lamenting low voter turnout on the eve of this week’s primary election.

By Monday afternoon, 36,107 people had cast early votes in the city, compared with 45,013 votes cast at the same point in 2010, said Langdon Neal, chairman of the election board.

That’s a drop of about 22 percent. Election officials use the 2010 primary for comparison because it was an election with many of the same races and no presidential race.

“We have continual eroding in the number of people who participate and low turnouts in non-presidential years — and that is a big concern to us,” Neal said.

The low turnout thus far can partly be explained by the lack of hotly contested races on the Democratic side — particularly for governor and the U.S. Senate, election officials said.

On the plus side, Neal said, are the 3,450 17-year-olds who are now registered to vote. For the first time in state history, those teens who will turn 18 by the November election are eligible to vote in the primary.

“They’ve gone half way there,” Neal said. “We need them to go the other half and actually show up and vote (Tuesday).”

Meanwhile, in Cook County, 34,035 people had cast early votes in the current primary, compared with 34,829 early votes in 2010, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.

“Turnout may be low for a primary in a non-presidential election, but voters should remember that the names on their ballots in November are a result of the contests in March,” Orr said. “This only underscores the importance of voting in

the primary.”

At the same time, more than 1.45 million suburban Cook County residents — a record number — are registered to vote in Tuesday’s Gubernatorial Primary Election, according to Orr’s office.

Polls are open Tuesday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

RELATED: Interactive graphic on early voting breakdown in Cook County