Officials say that the presidential race seems to be bringing out voting excitement
The 2016 presidential race is coming down to the wire and that includes early voting in Benton and Franklin County.
Early voting, the opportunity afforded registered voters to cast their ballots before Election Day, kicked off Thursday in the Elections Office in the Franklin County Annex on West Main Street in Benton.
Gary Hubbard cast the first ballot about 8:20 a.m., and by lunchtime, 24 more people exercised their right to choose candidates to represent them locally, in Springfield, in Washington, D.C., and in the White House.
Lisa Kay Muir, the county's deputy clerk for elections, said that even early on Thursday the number of people coming into the office to vote seemed higher than during previous election years.
Her premonition was correct. By the end of the day, the staff saw a record number of 40 early voters come through the election office on the first day of balloting.
Muir's busy count also included the 267 absentee ballot applications that her office was processing.
"Some will go out in the mail today," Muir said on Thursday. "Hopefully we won't have to stay too late to get them out."
Of the 267, 25 were mailed out Sept. 22 to military voters: soldiers and sailors who will not be home in time to vote on Election Day.
Muir said that the election office staff stands prepared to answer questions from the public up to the end of voter registration on Oct. 11 and through the registration grace period that runs up to Election Day.
To register through Oct. 11, people can go to the election office website at franklincountyil.gov., the state election board's website, in person at the office and at the DMV, Muir said.
Registering online is becoming rather popular with about 140 paperless applications received in about a week, Muir said.
Those seeking to register during the grace period can do so at the elections office each weekday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday until Election Day.
On Election Day, prospective voters will still come into the elections office to register and cast a ballot on the same day, as well as in a second office that will open for one day only in Denning Township at West Frankfort.