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URBANA — Early voting for the April 2 elections begins today, and new Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons said he and his staff are ready.

"It was a speed learning curve, but folks have stepped up, and we are prepared," he said.

The first early-voting opportunities will be at one Champaign County location only — the county clerk's office in Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U.

Eight other locations in Champaign-Urbana, Mahomet, St. Joseph, Rantoul and Tolono will be available for early voting starting March 27, and will be open through Election Day.

For the first election he's running since he was elected county clerk, Ammons said his staff has gone "over and above," and he's feeling good about preparations that have been made.

"We're working hard to be prepared for different scenarios," he said.

About 1,700 people have requested a vote-by-mail ballot to date, Ammons said. There's still time for others to do likewise.

"We are strongly encouraging people to go to the website, fill out the information for a vote by mail request, or call the (clerk's) office," he said.

Once early voting begins at the Illini Union, it will take place in the first-floor Pine Lounge room through election day, Ammons said. His office met with staff at the Illini Union and UI student government representatives about how to best avoid what happened in the November 2018 general election, when there was a long line of voters on a staircase to a fourth-floor polling place.

Early voting at the county clerk's office will be available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through March 26. After that, there also will be extended hours at that location for evening and weekend voting up until the election.

Campaign forum lineup

Next week, News-Gazette Media, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP will co-sponsor two nights of candidate forums at the Champaign City Building. The schedule and invited candidates, several of whom remain unconfirmed:

WEDNESDAY

6:45 p.m.

Urbana school board (2 seats): Anne Hall, Karen Brown-Tess (sub-district 4); Paul Poulosky, Felipe Menanteau (sub-district 6)

7:20 p.m.

Champaign school board (4 seats): Amy Armstrong, Jennifer Enoch, Michael Foellmer, Sergio Gonzalez, Chris Kloeppel, Lee McDonald, Alicia Robinson, Kathy Shannon, Elizabeth Sotiropoulos

8:40 p.m.

Parkland College board (2 seats): Bianca Green, Doug Jones, Jonathan Westfield

THURSDAY

6 p.m.

Champaign city council (3 at-large seats): Tom Bruno, AJ Christensen, Kenton Elmore, Matt Gladney, Will Kyles, Michael La Due, Pattsi Petri, Jon Paul Youakim

7:30 p.m.

Champaign mayor: Deb Feinen, Azark Cobbs

8 p.m.

Champaign park district (1 seat): Tim McMahon, DeShawn Williams

8:30 p.m.

Urbana park district (2 seats): Roger Digges, Cedric Stratton, Michael Walker