03/15/2012 02:37 pm ET

Illinois Primary 2012: Early Voting Ends Thursday, Election Tuesday

Illinois voters on Thursday face their final opportunity to vote early in advance of the March 20 primary election.

As the Associated Press reports, Thursday also marks the deadline for mail ballot applications to be received. Thus far this year in Cook County, some 12,700 mail ballots have been requested, meaning that mail voting is on track to top the 8,835 mail ballots cast in the presidential primary in 2008.

Registered voters may cast their ballots at 51 voting locations in Chicago, some 40 in the Cook County suburbs and more throughout the collar counties and the rest of the state. The city and suburban locations are open until 5 p.m. Thursday.

Last week, the Chicago Board of Elections admitted that voter turnout has not been on par with the previous presidential primary -- which featured President Obama on the ballot. The board partially blamed the stifled turnout on the Chicago Sun-Times because they did not make political endorsements this year.

"Aside from the Republican presidential candidates fighting to return us to 1955, no other high-profile races are on the ballot -- no U.S. senator, no governor, no attorney general," the Chicago Reader's Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky wrote in their primary preview.

Though high-profile races are missing outside of the GOP presidential contest, the Illinois primary season has not been short on drama. In the case of two incumbent Republican congressmen -- Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger -- running in the state's 16th Congressional District, Capitol Fax points out that a recent poll shows that the race is "too close to call." Manzullo this week accused his rival of releasing a mail piece "that made my wife weep."

In the 8th Congressional District, two Democratic candidates -- Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi -- are squaring off to challenge incumbent Republican rival Joe Walsh, the Tea Party darling -- who is reportedly running low on campaign cash. Duckworth's camp has suggested that Krishnamoorthi may be turning to a "Wall Street" and "big oil"-funded SuperPac to smear their campaign, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. A Krishnamoorthi spokesperson called that accusation "desperate."

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and her challenger Ald. Ricardo Munoz have also busily exchanged jabs over who is funding the others' campaigns. The Chicago Tribune reports that Brown's employees have made big contributions to her campaign, a practice Munoz condemned, while Brown pointed out that Munoz accepted donations from businesses and lawyers seeking out liquor permits and zoning changes.

Of course, the airwaves in recent weeks have been filled to the brim with campaign advertisements, perhaps none of which are more entertaining or strange than two radio spots created by former state Sen. Rickey Hendon for state Sen. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago) and Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) in their primary races. Capitol Fax has shared the must-listen audio from the bizarre ads.