DECATUR — The Macon County clerk's office has had about 1,700 voters and 2,000 requests for absentee ballots, a signal of strong interest as the final weeks close in on the November election.
A jam-packed ballot with several big-name contests, including a U.S. House race getting national attention and funding, are factors.
"We've got three contested elections on the county side, the governor's race is part of it and we've got a hot race for Congress," County Clerk Steve Bean said. "There's three county offices with competition that you haven't had for a long time ... that all plays into it."
Early voting started Sept. 27. Voters can cast ballots at the clerk's office in the Macon County Office Building at 141 S. Main St., until Monday, Nov. 5, the day before the election.
Turnout is often driven by high-wattage contests at the top of the ballot. In 2016, which had the presidential contest, 2,660 ballots were cast in Macon County before Election Day, state data shows. A total of 2,703 early ballots were cast before the March primary.
Numbers ramp up as the deadline approaches.
"The bulk of the most heaviest (voting) happens in the last two weeks," Bean said.
He said there seems to be a lot more voter activity before and during Election Day in recent years, which could be attributed to a variety of reasons, including campaign efforts and a desire to beat long lines at polling places.
Teri Kajander of Decatur cast her ballot Thursday and walked out with a familiar "I Voted" sticker on her sweater. Kajander, who describes herself as a "political person," is planning to be in Florida on Election Day.
She's done her research on all of the candidates and has paid close attention to many of the debates and developments as the campaign season has carried on. Voting is important to her, she said, as it's the responsibility of everyone to participate in elections, no matter the potential outcome.
"If you don't vote, then don't complain," said Kajander, 70. "It's as simple as that."
This year, voters are asked to choose between Democrat Tony Brown and Republican Jim Root for Macon County sheriff, Democrat April Kostenski and Republican incumbent Ed Yoder for county treasurer and Democrat Amy Rueff and Republican Josh Tanner for county clerk. Bean, who has held the clerk position for 28 years, is stepping down after this election.
On a statewide level, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is seeking re-election and faces competition from Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson and Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann.
A tight race for the 13th Congressional District is also underway between incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield. That contest is being closely watched as Republicans seek to maintain majority control of Congress in the midterm elections.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Davis in Springfield. Londrigan is scheduled to hold an event with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, in Decatur this week.
One hang-up Bean mentioned that has slowed the early voting process a bit is an unusual amount of people who have marked more than one gubernatorial candidate on their ballots. Voters will be asked to fill out a new ballot whenever that happens, he said.
"That same thing happened with the presidential election," Bean said. "I don't know why it is. The ballot is pretty self-explanatory. That's been the only major problem."
As the election season's final stretch approaches, representatives of Macon County's political parties say they'll have to stay the course and continue outreach to ensure that they connect with area voters before they hit the polls.
"It'll be 26 more days of trying to get our message out and convince people to vote for our candidates," Jim Underwood, chairman of the Macon County Democratic Central Committee, said last week.
Bruce Pillsbury, chairman of the county Republican Party, said both parties have "really been pushing it" to share the platforms of their candidates with the community, whether it be through meet-and-greets, advertisements or sending out mailers to registered voters.
Underwood said he and the Democratic Central Committee have noticed that more people have taken to early voting in recent elections. He, like Bean, feels that the contested county races might play a role in that.
Convenience might also be a big driving factor, Pillsbury said.
"A lot of people are working," he said. "... It's one more option that they have. They can vote early or vote when it's convenient for them."
When asked about national conversation surrounding the possibility of Democratic voters creating a "Blue Wave" to take control of several key offices and legislative branches, such as both houses of Congress, Underwood said he doesn't want to get too ahead of himself.
He said that although many might be dissatisfied with the current state of politics on a national level, none of the races in Macon County are a given.
"We follow (the conversation), but we're not banking on it," Underwood said.
Pillsbury is not concerned about a Blue Wave. He said that backlash stemming from the lengthy, heated Senate confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court might lead to a "Red Wave" instead of a blue one.
"I just think the Democratic Party on that level have just hurt themselves by doing this," Pillsbury said, referring to the confirmation process. "I feel like that's going to come back to haunt them."