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Voting already underway in America's Dairyland

Election Day is 15 days away but thousands of Wisconsinites have already voted absentee.

State officials expect 15 percent of registered voters to cast ballots early. And from all indications, that figure will be reached.

In the 2004 presidential contest, 12.6 percent of Wisconsinites voted absentee.

This year, Kyle Richmond of the Government Accountability Board says voting in advance has been promoted more than ever before.

Democrat Barack Obama e-mailed his Wisconsin supporters asking them to vote early and he's advertising it on newspaper Web sites.

Republican John McCain is also trying to get folks to vote early. State GOP director Mark Jefferson said a million targeted voters received application forms for absentee ballots.

And the party is following up with those people to make sure they use them.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Barry Burden says Obama is trying to strike while the iron is hot, getting as many votes in the can as possible while he leads in the polls by up to 17 points.

Burden says Republicans have a longer history of promoting absentee voting and they've done it with more success.

Wisconsin has allowed everyone to vote absentee since 2000.

Before then, individuals had to be over 70, or state that they'd be out of town on Election Day.

Almost 4,000 folks in Madison voted absentee by last Thursday.