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Local Iraqi Refugees Cast Ballots In El Cajon

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Thousands of Iraqi refugees in San Diego County are awaiting the results of Iraq's parliamentary election. They were able to cast their ballots in El Cajon over the weekend.

— Thousands of Iraqi refugees in San Diego County are awaiting the results of Iraq's parliamentary election. They were able to cast their ballots in El Cajon over the weekend.

A crowd of Iraqi men smoke cigarettes and talk politics in the parking lot of the Royal Palace Restaurant in El Cajon.

This is one of eight polling sites in the United States. The men here just cast their vote for who they think should make up Iraq's new parliament.

The largest bloc in the parliament will try to form a government to guide Iraq once U.S. forces go home.

Shak Hanish is a poll worker and a political science professor at National Univeristy. He says this an important time for his people.

“Their body is here physically but they are thinking about their homeland,” Hanish said. “They’re thinking about what is going on, the new developments, terrorism, and the new Iraq. They want their country to live in peace, have stability, democracy, and freedom.”

San Diego County is home to the second largest Iraqi population in the country.

This is the third time they've been able to cast overseas ballots to form a democratic Iraq. However, this is the first time they're picking leaders from each of Iraq's 18 provinces. Before they only voted for national candidates.

Iraqi refugee Tinue Shad says he assembled a dream team of leaders for his province of Kurdistan.

“I do dream for my Kurdistan list,” Shad said. “I adore it, and I will vote for it, and I will fight for it up until death. I don't give a damn.”

Election officials say ballots gathered in the U.S. will be counted in Washington D.C. and sent electronically and by mail to Baghdad.

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