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US-Cambodians Fret Over Election Barriers

Difficulties with the English language and high-tech electoral systems are among worries that Cambodian-Americans say could keep them from voting in the impending presidential election.

Among the thousands of Cambodians who have immigrated to the US as a result of their homeland’s civil strife, many have voted, but many have not. On Nov. 4, when the US chooses between senators Barack Obama and John McCain, some may stay at home again.

“If I knew how to press the computer, I would go, but I don’t know,” said 62-year-old Khoy Aun, from Arlington, Va. “I can’t even count to A-B-C, so how can I vote?”

Takoma, Wash., voter Saray Yuon, who came to the US in 1981, said he noticed a split between Cambodians who spoke English and those who had not learned it. Those who spoke English, he said, were voting for “change,” one slogan of the Obama campaign.

“We listen to the news on the radio and read the newspaper and Internet, and also through brothers and sisters who like to speak about which party we should choose,” he said.

Virginia resident Hean Yuth said voting would be hard for those who don’t speak English, but they can ask their children to help them operate the machines at the polling stations.

He would vote on issues “such as the declined economy and high unemployment,” he said.

Another Virginia voter, Tung Yab, said access to information on the TV and radio and in newspapers had made it easy for him to judge the candidates and determine his vote, though he admitted both candidates had exaggerated during the campaign.