Iraqi election officials are paving the way not only for millions of Iraqi citizens to vote in the country s historic election next weekend, but also for tens of thousands of Iraqi expatriates to participate.
Since the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program opened 74 voting centers in 14 countries last Monday, more than 94,000 expatriates have registered to vote in the Jan. 28-30 election, said Sarah Tosh, a spokesman for the program.
Up to 2 million expatriates may be eligible, she said.
The voting centers are not operated by the United States government, but by the International Organization for Migration under mandate by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which reports to the Iraqi government.
Ms. Tosh said the 14 countries hosting the Iraqi voting including the United States are not providing financial support for the effort. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has allotted up to $92 million to pay for out-of-country voting.
The centers were strategically placed in areas of the world with the most eligible voters. There are five polling locations in the United States, including one in Southgate, Mich., near Detroit.
The Southgate center is being run by 25 administrators and about 500 poll workers all Iraqi-Americans.
Many people with family lines tracing back to Iraq are eligible to vote even American citizens and people who weren t born in Iraq. In-person registration, which was to end today at 7 p.m., has been extended through Tuesday.
To register, expatriates must be born on or before Dec. 31, 1986, have a photo identification, and prove Iraqi heritage. Several government-issued documents, including nationality certificates, retirement cards, passports, and military service cards, can be used to prove that potential voters were born in Iraq, had current or previous citizenship in Iraq, or had an Iraqi national as a father. Non-Iraqi natives cannot use a maternal link to participate in the election.
Eligible voters must cast ballots in person at the locations where they registered, and they must present a receipt of their registration. There is no absentee voting and participants must find their own transportation to the polls.
Even though Iraqi political entities aren t using rock stars to promote participation like in the U.S. election, they ve still unveiled an expansive get-out-the-vote campaign to encourage people with slogans like, We Are Iraqis The future of Iraqi has a voice: Your vote! An in-depth Web site, www.iraqocv.org, was launched to provide several resources for out-of-country voters.
Iraqis, along with expatriates worldwide, will have equal say in electing the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly, which will be charged with electing a president, two vice presidents, and drafting a constitution. Using simple paper ballots printed in Arabic and Kurdish, voters will select political entities that will make up the nation s 275-member lawmaking body. Each political entity or party, which submitted pre-ordered lists of candidates, will be allotted a percentage of the seats based on the outcome of the vote.
Outside Iraq, the election will begin on Jan. 28 and end on Jan. 30 the same day as the national election in Iraq. Elections inside Iraq and abroad will be observed by domestic and international Iraqi observers, agents of the major Iraqi political parties, and members of the media.
The out-of-country votes are expected to be tallied at polling centers, with the results sent to Iraq. It has not been determined how the results will be transmitted, or if the ballots will be sent to Iraq.
Blade staff writer George J. Tanber contributed to this report.
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