PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois residents can now cast their ballots for this year’s general election.

Early voting in Illinois officially began Thursday ahead of the November 8 election day.

“Turn out has actually been extremely strong. We had individuals waiting at 8 this morning to get in to be able to vote,” said John Ackerman, Tazewell County Clerk.

Vote-by-mail is also underway. In Peoria County, election officials mailed 12,402 ballots on Thursday.

In Tazewell County, 6,559 mail-in ballots were requested by voters. In comparison, the total number of in-person early voters and vote-by-mail during the 2018 November election was 7,900.

“They became familiar with [vote-by-mail] during COVID, and are coming back,” Ackerman said.

Along with a number of important local and state races, Illinois’ governor for the next four years will be decided this election.

Thursday, Governor JB Pritzker made a stop in Bloomington to tout his record on issues like the state’s economy.

“We balanced four budgets in a row, we paid off all the state’s overdue bills, we’ve gotten six credit upgrades, we provided $1.8 billion dollars in gas grocery, and property tax relief,” Pritzker said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate State Senator Darren Bailey took to social media on Thursday to focus on crime and the controversial SAFE-T Act.

“If it goes into effect after January 1st then all of Illinois is going to look like Chicago does, with just rampant criminal activity,” Bailey said. “This complete SAFE-T act must be repealed.”

Regardless of which way you vote, the Peoria County Election Commission executive director Elizabeth Gannon said that before you head to the polls, it’s important to remember changes due to redistricting.

“First thing I would do is check your voter registration card,” Gannon said. “Districts you get to vote on may be different, also your polling place may be different.”

During the 2018 November election, there was 56% voter turnout in Peoria County. Gannon said she is expecting 55-60% this year.

If you plan to vote by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by November 8th.