THE WEEK started earlier than usual. Eight a.m. breakfast with wife Peggy and oldest son Dan, 20, who is returning to Blackburn College in Illinois after spring break. The breakfast is much quieter than recently because second son Mike, 18, and his two college friends who had been staying with us for the past week returned to Illinois College yesterday.

After church, it was the St. Patrick's Day parade to watch daughter Mary, 11, one of the O'Neill James Irish Dancers, dance her way down Constitution Avenue in her very first parade. Then a restaurant treat for a job well done. Her choice was McDonald's and her 6-year-old brother David agreed.

In the evening, background coverage of the congressional campaign for the Maryland 8th District Republican nomination took me to Rockville for a Connie Morella fund raiser featuring Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and Rep. Clarence Brown of Ohio. The food, catered by the Rockville High School culinary arts students, did a fine job of supplementing my McDonald's supper. Monday

Off to Chicago to monitor the Illinois primary election. As a consultant to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, I am directing a study of two "experimental" voting systems being considered for use there. The political science aspect of the study includes a measurement of the ballot "drop-off" -- the extent to which each voter fails to vote a complete ballot -- on each of the three systems to be used on Tuesday. Tuesday

Five o'clock, even on Chicago's central standard time, comes early. Walked across the street from the Bismarck Hotel to City Hall to await the 6 o'clock opening of the polls and the beginning of an expected several hundred telephone calls to election central, the election board's telephone bank.

Before 6, calls began coming in from some of the city's 3,083 precincts where election judges were having difficulty opening the polls or the voting machines.

At 8:30 a.m., with the phones still ringing incessantly, it was off to the polls. After a stop at the home of Dr. Jacov Avachai, a statistician who is assisting with the study, for a brief breakfast and a little conversation about Russian literature, we began a tour of the polling places where the "experimental" voting devices were being used to observe the instructions to the voters and the new procedures. Things seemed to be going well.

Back downtown for a visit to Project Leap, Chicago's voter watching group. Kirki Svare, Project Leap director, reported some complaints of voting machine vandalism in the hotly contested state's attorney's race and some illegal electioneering, but none affected the precincts we have been watching.

Visited the State Board of Elections where things were much quieter because voters were calling primarily for information rather than with complaints. State board field investigators, however, reported complaints similar to those received by Project Leap.

The 7 o'clock poll closing hour was fast approaching, so I returned to City Hall. Results started coming in and before long the winners were projected on TV. By 11 o'clock it was almost over for election board workers at City Hall. Wednesday

Breakfast at O'Hare and back to Washington. En route, reviewed two lectures for use later in the day. The two-hour state government class went quickly -- for me, if not for the students. Confirmed arrangements for a field trip next week to Dover, Del., for a class seminar with Gov. Pierre S. du Pont and legislative leaders.

After a light dinner, it was back for an evening class on political campaign management. Fortunately, I had an excellent guest speaker, Nancy Sinnott, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who explained what that committee does for Republican candidates. Nancy, who had just flown in from Denver, spoke until 9:45 p.m. and I completed the last hour and returned home by 11:15 p.m. Thursday

Began the day by drafting an outline for a WRC-TV commentary discussing the impact of the Illinois presidential primary results on the coming Virginia political party mass meetings. Stopped at Plus Publications to hand in the lead story for the next issue of our newsletter. Readers of Election Administration Reports almost unanimously favor bills providing free postage for absentee ballots and the story covers a recent congressional hearing on the subject. Checked mail for the past week and returned phone calls.

Next, visited Kennedy headquarters on 22nd St. to interview the coordinators of the northern Virginia campaign to obtain background material for commentary tonight. Went to WRC-TV at 4:30 to review details for the evening news program.

After the program, I returned home to take Peggy out to dinner so that we could have a chance to talk a little. After dinner, I went back downtown to the Washington Hilton, where the network correspondents' annual dinner was breaking up about the time I arrived. The diners headed into the network reception areas where, between 11 and 1 a.m., I had a chance to renew acquaintances with former WRC reporters and current election news personnel from all three networks. Election reporting was the subject of the evening. Friday

The morning was spent preparing a draft of a possible law review article on what the "speech and debate" clause of the Constitution means to the legislative branch of government as a result of the Supreme Court decision that Sen. Proxmire could be held liable for remarks made in giving his "Golden Fleece" awards.

The balance of the morning was spent in the law school library and the afternoon on university business, letters of reference to law schools for former students, grading papers and reviewing several texts for possible use next fall. Decisions on texts are almost due. Then back home for two hours' work on "the book," a detailed overview and history of the conduct of American elections.

In the evening it was the Capitals hockey game with a good friend, my son Steve, 14, and his friend, Phil Lewis. Other than the outcome, it was a fine game. Saturday

First morning to sleep a little later -- 9 a.m. Discussed his soccer team at breakfast with son Gregory, 17, who along with Steve, is coaching a Montgomery County beginning team this year. He was a little later than the other coaches in picking up the uniforms and as a result his team will wear one of the less preferred colors -- brown. As a former Clevelander and a Browns fan, I think the color is quite all right.

At 10 a.m. it was off to Arlington to observe the Democratic Party mass meeting to select the county's delegates to the congressional district convention. The registration showed President Carter ahead by 2 to 1 here so I went on to Alexandria where an even larger and possibly more interesting meeting might be taking place. The Alexandria meeting proved to be larger, but not by much. The 504 here were fewer than half as many as had participated four and eight years ago. Carter won again, 3 to 2.

Home by 3 p.m. to read a little and finally to attend a party at the home of long-time friends, the Bill Currys of Vienna. Good company, pleasant relaxation and no political talk.