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Obstacles Plague Absentee Voting For Iraqis in U.S.

Several polling stations will be set up in each of the five voting centers, Copeland said. In Washington, his office is looking for two or three sites that have parking and could be easily secured, he said. Security, he added, is "a large concern for us and something we're making a high priority."

Copeland said that the stations could potentially serve as many as 20,000 Iraqi voters who live in the Washington area and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Jeremy Copeland of the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program says his office understands Iraqis' hardships. (Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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Under Iraqi electoral authorities' rules, voter registration will be Jan. 17 to 23 at polling places. Those who qualify must return to the same station to vote Jan. 28 to 30. Ballots will be available in Kurdish and Arabic, and voters will have a finger marked with indelible ink to prevent repeaters.

To register, Iraqis must have been 18 or older by Dec. 31, and present two documents. One must be a photo ID, and the other must prove that the would-be voter is an Iraqi citizen or a former Iraqi citizen who acquired U.S. citizenship, or that the voter's father was born in Iraq. These could include a U.S. passport or Iraqi ID card.

Jamal Fadel, a physician who lives in College Park, said he is excited about participating in the election.

"We don't want the terrorists to win," said Fadel, 47, who reasons that a large election turnout "will give . . . a message for al Qaeda that the Iraqi people don't want them."

Alyaa Mazyad, 26, a Reston homemaker, also grew up in Iraq and said she is determined to vote "because it's the first democracy election for the Iraqis." Like many other Iraqis in the area, however, she said she still has no idea who she will vote for because "I don't know all the names of the candidates."

Many Iraqis here are hoping that a new elected government will bring peace and order to their homeland. Ghazi Tememi, a pharmacist from Fairfax, said he regards the election as "a way to unite Iraq rather than fragment Iraq."

Dhiya Al Saadawi, owner of Al Hikma Bookstore in Falls Church, said he hopes that "after this election . . . the government will have more power."

Although many Sunni Muslims in Iraq are not enthusiastic about the election because they fear it will lead to a government dominated by Shiites, that is not a universal sentiment among Sunnis here.

"I'm not ambivalent," said Dhia Al Doori, a physician and Sunni Iraqi who lives in Cheverly. "I want the election to happen, definitely. We have too much stuff going on that has to be corrected . . . and without having a sovereign, elected government, it won't be done very effectively."

Al Doori, 50, said he is leaning toward voting for a party sponsored by one of Iraq's leading Shiite clerics because it appears moderate and organized. "I'll probably swing that way," he said.

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