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Voting by mail is gaining popularity ahead of April election

Voting by mail continues to remain a popular option for Central Illinois voters looking to cast their ballots in the upcoming April election.

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman says more than 2,500 votes by mail and around 700 in-person early ballots were cast as of Tuesday. For comparison, there were 38 votes by mail in the last comparable election cycle.

Ackerman says it's too early to say exactly what this means for overall participation.

"My gut's telling me that they are brand-new voters participating in the process that wouldn't have otherwise, but I won't have proof of that until Election Day itself," he said

In Peoria County, more than 5,000 vote by mail ballots have been returned to the election commission. Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Gannon says the last comparable election saw just 1,500. Both clerks say turnout for these off year elections tend to be low, never breaking the 20% threshold.

But Gannon hopes more people will take the time to vote, as changes made by the state this year automatically sent out more than 15,000 vote by mail ballots in the county.

"I think the fact that a ballot is showing up at their house automatically through this program, they're thinking, 'OK, why not? I'll do my research and send my ballot in and cast my vote,'" she said.

The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Thursday, March 30.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.