Early Voting for Illinois' primary election ended Thursday, and officials say the number of voters who went to the polls is down compared to four years ago.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said early data shows early voting ballots cast is down by more than 46,000 compared to 2008, which saw 81,690 ballots cast.
Of those votes that were cast, nearly 89 percent were in Democratic races. Another 11 percent were in Republican races. Fewer than one percent of votes were cast for Green Party or non-partisan candidates.
Absentee voting is also down by more than 8,000 compared to 2008. Of the 9,400 absentee applications processed Wednesday for the March primary, only about 4,763 absentee ballots were returned. About 13,000 ballots were mailed in 2008, election officials said.
Early voting began Feb. 27 for the primary election that brings a new redistricting map that could help tweak the balance of power in Springfield and Washington.
The Democrat-drawn map cuts the state into 18 congressional districts down from 19, and has forced a runoff between two incumbent Republicans in north central Illinois -- longtime U.S. Rep Don Manzullo and freshman U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Other primary battles that are heating up include one between veteran U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, a Democrat who faces his first primary challenge from former one-term congressman Debbie Halvorson.
Illinois residents didn't need to offer any reason or excuse to vote early, but once a vote is cast they are forbidden from voting on Primary Day, polling officials said.
The Illinois Primary Election is March 20. For a complete list of voting locations and hours, check the Illinois Board of Elections' website.