Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 12, 2010

1,400 Iraqi Americans cast ballots Sunday's election

Pleasanton serves aspolling location for Iraqis eligible to vote

by Jeb Bing

Just over 1,400 registered Iraqi voters cast ballots at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton last weekend, one of eight polling locations across the United States where Iraqi Americans who still retain their Iraqi citizenship had the chance to vote.

There were 18.9 million Iraqis eligible to cast ballots in last Sunday's national elections in Iraq with an estimated 60 percent turnout. They voted to fill 325 seats in the Council of Representatives, Iraq's parliament, representing the country's 18 provinces.

Voting outside of Iraq began last Friday in the U.S. and in some of the 15 other countries where Iraqis are living, including the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran, Canada and others in the Middle East and Europe. There were no exact figures available on those eligible to cast ballots abroad. Estimates on turnout have ranged anywhere from 300,000 to 3 million.

This was Iraq's fifth nationwide vote since 2003, but only the second for a full four-year-term parliament.

Every voter, including the estimated 1,400 who voted in Pleasanton, walked away with a purple ink-stained finger, evidence of casting a ballot.

Although there were 6,000 candidates in Sunday's election, most voters here said they had made up their minds long before reaching Pleasanton to cast their ballots.

Iraqi voters huddled in casual circles at the fairgrounds to discuss the election before and after casting their ballots, walking back to Pleasanton Avenue where most had parked their cars. Vans also shuttled voters in from other cities.

The calm here contrasted sharply from Iraq, itself, where 36 people were killed in mortar and rocket attacks in various Baghdad neighborhoods.

In Iraq, counting took place at the polling stations at the end of voting, under the gaze of United Nations observers. Preliminary results were not available by press time. Results will start emerging for each province as soon as votes are tallied from 30 percent of polling centers in that province.

Ballots will be counted twice to ensure accuracy, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, with votes cast by Iraqis abroad to be sent electronically to the Iraq Elections Center.

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