The number of registered active voters in Illinois ahead of next month's election is at its highest since 1970, even edging past the number from 2008 when Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator from the state, ran for president, officials with the state Board of Elections said Tuesday.
The increased numbers come amid an unprecedented campaign season in which Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first female major party candidate for president, has squared off against Republican billionaire Donald Trump.
There are nearly 7.99 million registered active voters and 758,000 inactive voters in Illinois as of Tuesday morning, state board of election spokesman Jim Tenuto said. That's more than the 7.8 million who were registered before the 2008 presidential election, the previous high since 1970.
The number will likely tip over 8 million before Election Day, Tenuto said, because 62,000 people registered online over the weekend and the applications haven't been processed yet. Illinois also has grace period voter registration, which means voters can register through Election Day but they must cast a ballot when they register.
"We are working hard to turn out voters across the state with a strong focus on early voting and absentee ballots," Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe said.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago also is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. His spokesman Steve Brown said early voting efforts are a "very good thing" and give voters a chance to get to the polls despite hectic schedules.
In Chicago, nearly 17,500 voters had cast ballots by the close of business on Monday, the first day of expanded early voting in Illinois, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that another 22,000 voters already had voted in Chicago because early voting started Sept. 29, the earliest time voting was available before an election in Illinois.
In suburban Cook County, the first day of early voting nearly doubled the previous record. Clerk David Orr's office said there were about 25,600 early voters on Monday. That's compared to the previous record for the first day of early voting when about 13,800 people early voted in 2008.
"There are contests and initiatives up and down the ballot that are generating a lot of interest from voters, who obviously want to make sure their votes are cast," Orr said.
Chicago has about 1.5 million active registered voters, which is below the 2.3 million who were registered in the late 1940s and early 1950s.