Iraq's historic vote

Exiles in the U.S. and 13 other nations register for the Jan. 30 balloting

With last November's U.S. elections still fresh in our minds, it's interesting to see the mounting interest and preparation for Iraq's elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

Nearly a quarter of a million Iraqis living in the United States are eligible to vote in the election, and many of them are registering at one of the five polling stations around the United States. (Chicago and Nashville are the closest registration-polling sites to Southeast Missouri.) Thirteen other countries with concentrations of Iraqis also are registering voters and will have polling places on Jan. 30.

Meanwhile, security inside Iraq for the election is tight. Authorities anticipate a considerable effort by insurgents to disrupt the election process. In many cases, the locations of polling places will not be announced until hours before voting begins in an attempt to minimize those disruptions.

For the most part, Iraqis in the United States are demonstrating a high level of interest in their homeland's democratic process. Some of those eligible to vote next have never lived in Iraq, because their families fled the country to escape the repression of Saddam Hussein's regime. Now they have an opportunity to help choose a national assembly to write a constitution.

Despite the expected violence in Iraq, the Jan. 30 election marks another key milestone in the country's future as it heads for full participation in democracy enjoyed by so much of the rest of the world.

And the high level of interest by Iraqis who have been exiled by a harsh dictatorship is another example of the appeal democracy has to those who have been repressed with little or no say in how they are governed.

The Iraqi election is historic -- and deserves the support of democratic nations around the world.