The clerk acknowledged that there could be longer lines during rush hours in November 2012, when President Barack Obama is up for re-election. The savings comes from spending less on election judges, equipment programming, equipment delivery and polling place rental fees.

The reduction in precincts coincides with the state’s redistricting of legislative boundaries following the federal census. The clerk’s office redrew precinct boundaries, and an analysis of those new precincts revealed that a number of them were underused by voters.

The latest reduction in precincts – from 1,937 to 1,673 – marks a continuing voting trend over the past decade. Suburban Cook will have 33 percent fewer precincts in 2012 compared to a decade ago, the clerk’s office said.

In 2009, the county eliminated 353 precincts. Between 2002 and 2009, the number of precincts fell from 2,502 to 2,290. A total of 829 precincts have been abolished since 2002.

Nearly a quarter of all ballots were cast prior to Election Day in 2008, resulting in fewer voters heading to the polls, the clerk’s office said.

“There’s less people on Election Day as a result of absentee, early vote and mail-in ballots,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, R-Orland Park. “It’s freeing up Election Day polls.”

New voter identification cards will be issued to all registered voters prior to the March 20 presidential primary election. The cards will identify Election Day precincts and polling places, as well as the closest early voting location and the new 2012 voting districts.

And beginning in December, new precinct information will also be available at the clerk’s Web site, cookcountyclerk.com, under the Your Voter Information tool.