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Many Iraqi Expatriates Vote for First Time

Expatriate Iraqis began voting today for Iraq's Transitional National Assembly. While only a small percentage of eligible voters have registered, those who are coming out to vote believe this is an important moment in their nation's history. VOA's Brian Padden visited the Iraqi Out-Of-Country polling site just outside of Washington, D.C.

On a blistering cold morning and under heavy security Iraqis living in the eastern region of the United States came out to vote. Ali Al-Jabery drove through the night with his family, from his home in Boston to this polling site outside of Washington, D.C., to vote in Iraq's first independent election in more than 50 years. He says he is voting for the first time. “Awesome. This is the first time in all my life," he said. "I would like to send congratulations to all Iraq people for freedom, for today."

About 2,000 Iraqis have registered to vote at this polling site. Approximately 25,000 have registered at polling places across the United States. This is only slightly more than 10 percent of the estimated number of eligible Iraqis.

Still Robert Bryant of the Iraqi Out-Of-Country Voting Organization says the low turnout should not diminish the importance of this election. "This is a message of the determination of many folk in the United States and in fact throughout the world to participate in this activity, which we expect to start reshaping the future of their homeland in Iraq," he said.

And those who have come to vote agree. Ahmed Al-Zaidi says today is a historic occasion. “Our history starts from today," he said. "The free democratic Iraq starts today.”

In this election, Iraqi voters will select members to the National Assembly, which will draft Iraq's constitution.