Iraqi expatriates living in the U.S. prepared to cast absentee ballots Tuesday in Iraq's historic parliamentary elections, hoping the nation's new leaders can curb the violence in their homeland. Organizers said they expect tens of thousands of Iraqis to vote Tuesday through Thursday at polling sites around the country, including areas outside of Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and the cities of Pomona, California, and Nashville, Tennessee. Election Day in Iraq is set for Thursday.
In Dearborn, near Detroit, voter Akeel AlMosawi was so excited to cast his ballot that he arrived a half-hour early Tuesday. "I can't wait. I can't sleep last night," said the 31-year-old truck driver, who took the day off so he could vote.
AlMosawi was born in southern Iraq and most of his family now lives in the Detroit area. But he hopes to make life better for a sister who lives in Nasiriyah. "We're going to pick, not like somebody else is going to pick for us," he said.
AlMosawi was in a group of about 10 voters who stood in line outside a Dearborn banquet hall, waiting for the polls to open at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT). The polls will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Security was visible at the Dearborn polling place. A man guarded a room full of ballots. Law enforcement officials led a pair of bomb-sniffing dogs inside and outside the hall.
Voters are electing the 275-member National Assembly, which will rule the country over the next four years. Voters can choose from more than 200 political parties that represent some 7,000 candidates. Eligible expatriate voters may be U.S. citizens, but must be 18 years old or older, born in Iraq and hold citizenship there. Iraqis born in the United States who can prove their father is Iraqi also may vote.
Some Iraqi-Americans were planning on traveling hundreds of miles (kilometers) to cast a vote. "We'll drive 250 miles (400 kilometers) and be happy about it," said 35-year-old Albert Rasho, who plans to travel with three friends from Las Vegas to Pomona, California. He left Iraq 15 years ago to avoid mandatory military service under Saddam Hussein. "I want to see my country free after all Saddam did", reports the AP. N.U.