Early voting a very popular option in Peoria

By WEEK Producer

March 5, 2014 Updated Mar 5, 2014 at 11:14 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Illinois primary election isn't until March 18, but people are already voting.

Early voting is becoming more and more popular with every election cycle.

"It gives you more options," said Elizabeth Gannon Assistant Executive Director of the Peoria Election Commission. "If you can't get out of work on election day, you have two weeks prior to visit one of our three early voting sites and take care of it then."

That is exactly what voters in Peoria have been doing.

Two years ago, during the last election, one-quarter of Peoria voters cast their ballots early. That makes the city one of the most active early voting sites in the state.

In fact, election judge Brenda Bushnell said the last few days of early voting can get almost as busy as election day itself.

"We've had such long lines that people have had to stand and wait 10 or 15 minutes before they can get their application to vote," said Election Judge Brenda Bushnell.

But Rosemary Leonetti won't have to wait. She recently moved and is taking advantage of something called Grace Period Voting. It's a relatively new law that allows people to register and vote on the same day at the election commission office. A few years ago she'd have been out of luck.

"If you missed the deadline, you just were not going to be able to vote," Leonetti said. "But now, since they have this new law, which I like, and since we were a little late getting down here with the moving and everything, now we can vote."

Thirty-two states offer early voting. In North Carolina, early voting accounted for more than 50-percent of the ballots cast in 2012. And there's reason to think Peoria might someday approach that number.

"With our busy lives and the technology out there I can see that becoming a possibility," said Gannon.

Early voting continues through March 15.