Absentee voting period is now open.

Let the voting begin!

Although the general election is still six weeks away, the window to cast a ballot has opened for those who won't be able to make it to their designated polling place on Nov. 6.

On Tuesday, the first day that an absentee ballot could be filled out, some voters turned out at the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra.

"We had a few come in and vote, but it's kind of early yet," said County Clerk Valerie Dornberger. "Anywhere from a week to two weeks before an election it gets pretty heavy for absentee voting. That's about when people realize they're going to be out of town for work or on vacation and they have to cast a ballot."

The number of people voting absentee can vary greatly.

"In a normal election we'll get from 300 to 500 absentee ballots. In a presidential election we'll do 1,800. That's what we did four years ago. We could see considerably more this year, I'm just not sure," said Dornberger.

Those planning to vote absentee will have to fill out an application requesting a ballot. On the application they will have to cite the reason they will be unable to vote in person. Acceptable reasons include being out of town for work or pleasure on election day, the voter is incapacitated or is caring for someone who is shut in because of illness or a disability, can't vote that day because of religious beliefs, or is in jail.

Absentee ballots in Marion County can be cast in person at the collector's office at the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal or in the county clerk's office at the courthouse in Palmyra. The deadline to vote absentee in person is Monday, Nov. 5.

The clerk's office will send out absentee ballots to eligible voters. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail or fax is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31. Absentee ballots must be received by local election officials by 7 p.m. on Nov. 6. Absentee ballots being mailed in must be notarized when returned. Only the permanently disabled and their caregivers or qualified military and overseas absentee voters are not required to have their ballot notarized, according to Dornberger.

Approximately 150 absentee ballots were mailed out last week. Most of those were shipped out to military personnel who are serving overseas, reports Dornberger.

The furthest an absentee ballot has traveled to reach the clerk's office in Marion County? Dornberger estimates it was one sent in by a Peace Corps worker in Tanzania, located on the southeast coast of Africa.

Dornberger reminds voters whose name has changed since the last time they voted, or who have changed mailing addresses, to contact her office ahead of election day.

"It will make things go smoother and make their wait in line less," she said. "The big thing is the change of address. We want to get them to the right polling location."