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NORMAL - If you want to vote in upcoming elections, you won't be tied to just one day anymore.

You can choose from as many as 17 days in which to cast your ballot in the March primary, the first time Illinois has joined several other states in offering early voting. The option is in addition to absentee voting, which requires voters to meet certain qualifications.

"The intent is to get as many to the polls to vote as possible," said McLean County Clerk Peggy Ann Milton. "Hopefully there will be no excuse that they didn't have the opportunity to do it."

Early voters within McLean County will be able to choose from three sites: Milton's office, Normal City Hall and Illinois State University.

Residents within Bloomington city limits, whose elections are overseen by the Bloomington Election Commission, can vote at that office. Char Stanford, executive director of the commission, said satellite sites could be added if enough voters take advantage of the early voting option.

"We're taking baby steps to make certain we can do it right," said Milton. "We want to make sure we have it down pat before we expand it. It's a whole new concept."

It also goes beyond just providing voting equipment. Milton has to link the Normal city clerk's office with the voter database so City Clerk Wendy Briggs can check to ensure the person voting is registered and isn't casting more than one ballot.

Milton is working with retired ISU instructor Betty Kinser and the League of Women Voters to provide volunteers to staff the ISU site. They will have to call or e-mail Milton's office each time a voter wants to cast a ballot to ensure the voter is registered and only voting once.

Stanford is hiring election judges - at a cost of about $5,000 - to oversee the early voting option in a conference room in her office.

"It will be set up as a polling place," Stanford said.

Votes cast during early voting will not be counted until all other ballots are counted at the end of the designated Election Day, which is March 21.

For more on this story, see Saturday's Pantagraph.

Early voting

For people still needing to register to vote or report a name or address change can do so from Wednesday through March 7. After the adjustments are made, the voter can cast an early ballot.

McLean County

Residents living outside Bloomington's city limits can vote early from:

- 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Feb. 27 through March 16, and 9 a.m. to noon March 4 and March 11, at the McLean County Clerk's office, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington;

- 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Feb. 27 through March 16, at the Normal City Clerk's office, Normal City Hall, 100 E. Phoenix Ave., Normal;

- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 28, March 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 at Illinois State University (specific site to be announced).

Residents living inside Bloomington's corporate limits can vote early:

- 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Feb. 27 through March 16, and, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 4 and March 11 at the Bloomington Board of Elections, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.

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