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Early Voting In Illinois Begins

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CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois voters can officially head to the polls as Monday marks the start of early voting for the state’s primary election.

The March 20 primary includes nominating contests for the Illinois House and Senate, county offices, congressional races and a number of referendum questions.

Numerous polling places will be open for early voting statewide, including 51 in Chicago, according to the Illinois Board of Elections. The Chicago Board of Elections offices will conduct early voting seven days a week, including 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Suburban voters can go to more than 40 locations in the Chicago area.

Early voting sites include 31 in Will County, 20 in Lake County, 15 in Kane County and 10 locations each in DuPage and McHenry counties.

Early voting runs until March 15.

“You don’t have to wait until March 20 to cast a vote in this election,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr in an emailed statement urging voters to take advantage of the option.

Illinois will be a battleground for U.S. congressional races, and redistricting could compromise the Republican majority in Illinois’ congressional delegation. Republicans will undoubtedly lose one seat. The new Democrat-drawn map cuts the state into 18 congressional districts down from 19, eliminating a congressional seat held by a Republican. The congressional map is drawn every decade based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, and Illinois didn’t grow as quickly as other states, so it lost a seat.

Voters will choose candidates in several highly contested races, including the 2nd district which extends south of Chicago and the 16th district in north-central Illinois.

In the 2nd District, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, a longtime Democrat, faces his first challenge, from former one-time congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. In the 16th District there’s a Republican incumbent faceoff: longtime U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo and freshman U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Registered voters must show a current driver’s license or a valid photo ID to participate.

Early voters cannot change their votes after final submission. Voters don’t have to register by party but must choose a party when voting.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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