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Polls Open in Haiti Presidential Vote


A voter casts his ballot during the presidential and legislative elections in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 28 Nov 2010

A voter casts his ballot during the presidential and legislative elections in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 28 Nov 2010

Polls are open in Haiti for elections to choose a new president and lawmakers, but voting in some places is chaotic. In Port-au-Prince, some voters complained that problems at voting sites prevented them from casting ballots.

Polling stations began opening around dawn across Haiti for the first elections since a massive earthquake in January. Voters are choosing from a slate of 19 candidates to select a new president to lead the country as it struggles to rebuild from the disaster.

At one polling site in the Delmas neighborhood of the capital, Fefe Jean-Noel said he voted for popular singer Michel Martelly for president, because he was not a career politician.

He said the poll opened late in the morning, and election workers turned away many voters because their names did not appear on the rolls.

Jean-Noel said he called the election office last week to make sure he went to the right polling station, but many other voters did not.

"They [election workers] are not organized," he said. "You have to go vote, but you don't know where to go vote. People don't know how to find out [voting] information."

Haitian officials have been struggling in recent weeks to issue new identification cards to voters who lost their documents and other belongings in the January quake. More than a million people remain in tent camps after losing their homes.

At another polling site in Delmas, a group of men stood outside the gate of an elementary school after being told their names were not on the voter rolls. Junior Chervil said he had been told last week that he was assigned to that voting site.

Chervil said he was frustrated because he was trying to vote for the first time in his life, and he had no choice now but to give up and go home.

Other voters said they had visited several sites already early Sunday, and were still unable to find their correct polling station.

After trying three other sites, Dieussaint Chery came to the school and was allowed to vote.

Chery said he remembers voting at the school during the last election, but he thought the building had collapsed in the quake.

Voter Jean Roland worried that he was going to be turned away by election workers after standing in a line stretching into the street. He blamed Haiti's political leaders for the problems many voters were encountering.

Rodlan says a small group of people want to hold on to power and they don't care about the rest of Haitians.

Many voters said the top issues facing the next president are creating jobs and resolving the status of hundreds-of-thousands of people still living in tent camps since the quake hit.

Vote results are expected December 7. If no presidential candidate wins a majority of votes, a run-off election will be scheduled for January 16.

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