While Illinoisans' collective attention has been justifiably diverted by the ongoing news about polar vortex — another one has arrived, by the way — it's important to realize an important election is just weeks away.
Let's hope Mother Nature is in a better mood by then.
Starting Monday, registered voters can cast an early ballot for the March 18 primary election that will include a range of critical choices -- from a local referendum on a sales tax hike to benefit schools to the statewide choice of who will be the Republican candidate for governor this fall.
In some cases, the vote you cast will determine the eventual winner. In other cases, your vote will determine who will run in the November general election.
And, in Bloomington, there is a choice of whether to change the ward system that would, if approved, change the way residents are represented in the future.
The Pantagraph's in-depth election coverage begins March 9, offering a balanced look at candidates in contested races and the various referendums on ballots not just here, but throughout the area.
Before you cast that vote, however, you must be registered.
Illinois law allows a "grace period" through March 15 to register or change your address. The catch is, you must cast your ballot at the same time.
If you're already registered, you can vote early through March 15. If you need an absentee ballot, mailed requests must be received by March 13. In-person requests must be made by March 17.
In McLean, Ford, Logan and Livingston counties, voters will determine a new sheriff. Some counties have races for county board members; as noted, McLean and DeWitt county voters will determine a 1 percent sales tax for schools. El Paso-Gridley and Hartsburg-Emden school districts also have questions on the ballot.
In other counties, referendums include support for an ambulance district and a cemetery board, and whether towns should agree to electrical aggregation.
Several congressional seats also have contested races, including the 13th, 16th and 18th in our area.
If you aren't sure if you're registered, or if you have early voting or absentee ballot questions, contact your local county clerk's office or local election authority. Many also have the voter information available on their websites.
On March 18, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Make your voice is heard.