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Election authorities: Vote early to avoid long lines

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BLOOMINGTON — McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael and Bloomington Election Commission Executive Director Paul Shannon anticipate a large voter turnout for the primary election on March 17.

"Please register to vote before Election Day because we anticipate a large turnout," Michael said. "Allowing people to register and vote on the same day is a great law but it takes three times longer."

On election days in 2016 and 2018, especially at Illinois State University, many people were registering and voting on the same day, she said. People already registered to vote can take advantage of early voting or vote by mail.

People can register to vote on the State Board of Elections website (www.elections.il.gov). Bloomington residents also can register with the election commission in the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington. County residents outside of Bloomington can register with the county clerk's office in the Government Center or at mcleancountyil.gov/elections.

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The election commission runs elections in Bloomington and the county clerk's office runs elections in the rest of McLean County, including Normal.

You can double-check your registration at elections.il.gov. People must live at a new address for at least 30 days before they can vote in that precinct, or they can vote in their former precinct.

Registered county voters may call 309-888-5588 or go to mcleancountyil.gov/vbm to request that a ballot be mailed to them. Bloomington residents may download an application at becvote.org.

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Early voting begins Feb. 6 at the election commission and the county clerk's offices. The election commission also has several days of early voting at Eastland Mall in Bloomington; the county clerk's office has several days of early voting at Eastland Mall, and ISU's Bone Student Center and Watterson Towers. Dates and times are listed at mcleancountyil.gov/elections and at becvote.org

Polling places for election day are listed on the back of voter registration cards; you also can call the county clerk's office, the election commission (309-888-5136) or go to elections.il.gov.

Polling places being moved in Bloomington are from First Christian Church to Wesley United Methodist Church, 502 E. Front St.; from Lafayette Club to Lincoln Leisure Center, 1206 S. Lee St.; from Miller Park Pavilion to Miller Park Zoo; and from Union Park to Evergreen FS, 402 N. Hershey Road, and St. Patrick's Church of Merna, 1001 N. Towanda Barnes Road.

The only polling place being changed in the county is in Colfax, from 124 E. Main St. to 307 N. Harrison St.

On the ISU campus, where anyone in the county may vote, a second polling place and 50 additional election judges have been added at Watterson Towers in addition to the polling place at Bone Student Center. The additional polling place was a recommendation of the ISU E (Election) Team, which includes ISU staff, faculty and students, Michael said.

Each election day polling place in the county will allow voters to use either a paper ballot or computer. "Our equipment is not connected to the Internet so it can't be hacked and we are mandated to have a paper trail," Michael said.

Shannon said, "By the end of the month, we are moving our server to under the city server to make sure our server is more secure. Doing so will mean more robust fire walls and an IT staff that is monitoring it more than our staff is able to."

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.

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