Utah's Iraqis Vote in CA

Utah's Iraqis Vote in CA

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John Hollenhorst ReportingA historic day in Iraq--after weeks of worrying about low voter turnout and attacks by insurgents, millions of Iraqis went to the polls to vote in their first democratic elections.

The day was not without its problems, more than 40 people were killed while waiting in line to vote. But that was nowhere near the level of violence expected by some.

The worst incident happened west of Baghdad. Six people were killed by a bomb while waiting to cast their ballots. But despite the threats of death, Iraqis waited in line for hours to get their first taste of democracy. Voter turnout was estimated at 80 percent. Preliminary results will not be known until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Final results will not be available for ten days.

President Bush called the Iraqi elections a resounding success. Hours after the polls closed the President congratulated the Iraqi people on their bravery for going to the polls even in the face of danger.

President Bush: “Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.”

The President's political rivals were also happy with the outcome of the vote because they feel it is a sign that US troops can soon pull out of the region.

Sen. John Kerry (D) Mass, from Meet the Press: “What the administration does in these next few days will decide the outcome of Iraq. And this is, not maybe, this is the last chance for the president to get it right.”

The Bush Administration said they do not have a timetable for bringing troops home.

Many Iraqi's living in the United States voted by absentee ballot over the weekend. Among them were two cab drivers from Salt Lake City.

You know, tens of millions of Americans never vote. And some people skip it if it rains or if the line is too long. Not so for Iraqis at home and in Salt Lake.

In Iraq voters dodged threats of bullets and bombs. In Salt Lake two cab drivers sacrificed time and money. As part of the identification process for absentee balloting in Los Angeles, both have black ink on their fingers.

Abdul Aljereh, Taxicab Driver: “Well, I think it’s the first step to build a new Iraq.”

Saad Alietiaj figures he spent about a thousand dollars on two trips, to register and vote. He did it because he believes Iraq's future will be better than its past or present.

Saad Alietiaj: “Choose by the people, not force. We don’t need another Sadam. We need a government by choice.”

Both taxi drivers were heartened so many voters turned out in Iraq.

Abdul Alijereh: “First of all they are brave, and they want to prove to the terrorist group and all the world they don’t back down from anybody. They want to get their freedom back and do what they want. They prove it. Slap the terrorists’ face by going to the polls.”

One of them says U.S. troops should pull out as soon as elected officials get Iraq under control.

Saad Alietiaj: “If they want to be there forever, no it’s not a good idea. But I think they are going to help and give it to these people, hand it to these people and leave. And I think that’s what they want to do.”

It's been reported that many candidates in Iraq campaigned practically in secret because of the danger of assassination. But both cab drivers say they knew enough about the candidates to make intelligent choices on their absentee ballots.

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