Eligible Illinoisans enjoy many options and plenty of reasons to vote early in the March 17 primary.

“This will be the biggest election of my tenure,” Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney told FarmWeek. “We’re hopeful we have a heavy turnout.”

Kinney, fellow county clerk Don Gray of Sangamon County and Illinois State Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich encouraged early voting. “Even-year presidential elections are gold standard elections with the highest turnout,” Gray said.

Dietrich added turnout “is always up there (for presidential elections), and we have a highly controversial Democratic primary.” Plus, the ballot includes every Illinois congressional member and state representative and 20 state senators.

Just in time, Illinois settled on Jan. 23 uncertainty about the state’s Democratic presidential ballot after an objection about candidate Michael Bloomberg was withdrawn, Dietrich said.

Early voting starts Feb. 6 and ends March 16.

In Illinois, eligible residents must be at least 18 and have lived in their precinct at least 30 days before the Election Day. Seventeen-year-olds may register and vote in the primary only if they will turn 18 on or before the day of the General Election.

Not sure if you’re registered? Find out here.

Illinois offers online voter registration. Click here to learn more. 

To register online, an individual must supply an Illinois driver’s license or state identification number, the date the license or identification was issued, birthdate and the last four numbers of his or her Social Security number. For the primary, online voter registration closes at 11:59 p.m. March 1.

Individuals also may register at a local election authority office. Contact those authorities for location and business hours.

Illinois also offers motor voter register for people getting or renewing a traditional driver’s license by phone or mail. People not registered in Illinois may answer “yes” to a voter question on the license application and receive a registration packet by mail.

If you renew your license online, you may register to vote and receive a registration packet by mail or visit the state Board of Elections online voter registration site.

Illinois offers options for voting early in the office of a local election authority and temporary locations. Check with local authorities for polling places and early voting hours.

Grace period registration and voting starts Feb. 18 and ends March 16. Once registered during the grace period, a voter casts a ballot at the election authority’s office or a specifically designated location.

Residents may also request to vote by absentee ballot by applying to the election authority in the jurisdiction where they’re registered.

Given the expected heavy turnout, some local election authorities have trouble finding enough judges for each polling place. Dietrich explained election judges receive training that is “pretty basic.” He encouraged interested individuals, including eligible high school students, to contact their local election authorities for information.

In Rock Island County, Kinney said five to six judges are needed for each of 38 voting centers. Eligible primary election judges must be currently registered to vote in the county, speak and read English, declare their political party affiliation and attend one of three February training sessions. On election day, the polls open at 5 a.m. and close around 7 p.m.

Sangamon County “has been fairly blessed with a good pool of election judges to pull from ... and has not had the struggle of rural counties,” Gray said.

In his county, high school students have served successfully as election judges, and local election authorities work with county district administrations, Gray said. Eligible students must be juniors or seniors, have a 3.0 grade point average, parental and school administration permission, and complete a form and training.

In Sangamon County, student election judges help as election day registrars with same-day voter registration, which requires computer research and uploading information on the cloud, Gray said. Students also serve as election judges.

Gray enthusiastically supported the students’ involvement and learning about the democratic process. They “learn citizens play a role in the fair system to elect our leaders, and they can be a part of it,” he said.