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‘Unpredictable Election Day’ sparks new records for mail ballot, early voting in suburban Cook County

The March primary marked the first time that voters in suburban Cook County who cast their ballots before the election so heavily eclipsed the number who voted on Election Day, according to the release.

Hand sanitizer and stickers are set up at the Lincoln Lodge Polling Station in Chicago’s 1st Ward Tuesday.
Hand sanitizer and stickers are set up at the Lincoln Lodge Polling Station in Chicago’s 1st Ward Tuesday.
Sun-Times file

The March primary set records for mail-in-ballots and early voting in suburban Cook County, beating some previous presidential primary records, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough’s office reported Wednesday.

According to figures released Wednesday, the county set some records in the March primary, despite the coronavirus presenting unprecedented challenges for electoral authorities around the state.

The number of returned mail ballots jumped by nearly 52% from the 2016 record — 47,652 ballots were sent back to the clerk’s office this year, up from the 31,409 returned in the last presidential primary four years ago.

And those who chose to vote early — whether by mail or in person — accounted for 56% of all ballots cast in the primary, a release from the clerk’s office said. In 2016, that number was about 22%.

The March primary marked the first time that voters in suburban Cook County who cast their ballots before the election so heavily eclipsed the number who voted on election day, according to the release.

“In light of an unpredictable Election Day, in the weeks leading up to March 17 I called on Cook County voters to take advantage of Mail Voting and Early Voting and they answered that call,” Yarbrough said.

Tuesday was the deadline for the clerk’s office, as well as others in the state, to certify election results, sending them to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The state’s board will certify statewide results by April 17.