Bay Area Iraqis vote in parliamentary elections

March 5, 2010 7:21:25 PM PST
Iraqis from around the United States are converging on Pleasanton this weekend to select members of parliament in their home country. It is the second election since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in 2003. The Bay Area is one of just eight polling places across the country.

"It's our country, our country, that's why; we voted for our country," Turlock resident Edward Youkhanna said.

The opportunity to vote in Iraq's election is motivating people to drive hundreds of miles to the polling center in Pleasanton. Some even brought their children and flags to show their support and enthusiasm for democracy.

"It's more help, it's much better than before, better with democracy," San Jose resident Mezher Albohassan said.

Voters faced a long ballot; more than 6,200 candidates are running for 325 seats in Iraq's parliament.

After casting a ballot, they emerged with purple stained index fingers signaling that they had voted.

A few people were disappointed when they did not produce required proof of Iraqi birth.

"I wasn't allowed to vote because my document didn't show the city of my birth," Rose Warda said.

Warda drove from Modesto to vote. She had voted in the previous 2005 election.

Others complained that they too had been turned away.

"It's really not fair; people have come from Utah, we came from San Francisco, from all over," San Francisco resident Mona Malik said. "It's not clear on the website that you have to have two documents from Iraq. My birth certificate doesn't exist anymore; it's not easy to get those kinds of documents."

The manager of the polling center was aware of the complaints. However, the rules required two original documents.

"These are the rules...They are set, centralized in Baghdad and they apply to everybody," Raymond George said.

Around 200 people voted in Pleasanton Friday; a heavier turnout is expected over the weekend. The polls will be open here from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Voting in Iraq will be on Sunday.


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