CHICAGO (WBBM) – The popularity of early voting in the Chicago area is exploding with Thursday the last day to cast a ballot before Tuesday’s General Election.

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Three times as many Chicago voters will have gone to the polls this election than the one four years ago.

Chicago Board of Election spokesman Jim Allen tells Newsradio 780 nearly 72,000 people have voted early already with, at least, another 13,000 early voters expected Thursday. That would make an estimated early vote total of about 85,000 this year compared to nearly 25,000 in 2006.

Mail-in ballot applications in the city are up too from 18,000 in 2006 to more than 22,000 this year.

In Will County, early voting totals are more than double already what they were four years ago with mail-in ballot requests even higher than that.

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In Lake County, it’s a similar story according to County Clerk Willard Helander who tells Newsradio 780, “We have 27,355 people that have voted at one of our 20 sites available (as of midday Wednesday). In November 2006, we had 18,000 people vote early.”

Suburban Cook early vote totals are more than double what they were in 2006 with mail-in ballot requests up more than four times.

Cook County Clerk David Orr says an estimated 77,000 people in suburban Cook County have voted early this year compared to 33,000 in 2006. On the mail-in ballot request ledger, there have been 45,000 requests for mail-in ballots this year compared to just 16,000 four years ago.

Orr predicts voting-by-mail will be the wave of the future when people realize how easy it is and that, now, you can vote by mail for no reason at all—just because you want to.

Election officials in Will, DuPage and Kane counties are seeing big increases as well.

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