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US-Cambodians Prepare for Election Day

Cambodians who have been sworn in as US citizens have the right to vote, but just one week away from the US presidential election, some say they encountered too many difficulties to register.

Although some Cambodian voters will be able to cast their ballots Nov. 4 for the US president, in a race between senators Barack Obama, for the Democrats, and John McCain, a Republican, others said they would be sitting this one out.

Rieng Saroeuy, who lives in Richmond, Va., and has four children, was among those who would not be able to vote. Her job as a house cleaner kept her busy, and a new granddaughter was born as the deadline passed, she said.

“I missed it already, and I feel regret because the last day of registration was on the same day the baby was born,” said Rieng Saroeuy, who herself was born in Battambang province and only a few weeks ago became a US citizen. “All the forms filled up then and later than that was not accepted.”

Her husband would not vote either, she said, because he does not speak “American.”

Rieng Saroeuy said she was committed to voting in the next election. Her son, Keo Bory, said he had voted in the past, but would obstain this time because he didn’t like either candidate.

Many Cambodian-Americans do not participate in voting because they are busy at work, or they have not become naturalized citizens. Cultural pressure and language difficulties can also impede would-be Cambodian voters.

For 34 years, Vuthoeun Ven has been an electronics technician in a factory. The Lowell, Mass., resident received his citizenship two years ago and said he would cast his first US presidential vote for a leader that would spur the country’s weakened economy and secure the future for his children.

Asked whether he had his voter registration, he said he needed to follow up with his local municipal office.

“I think a vote is the future,” he said. “We need to pick someone who has good leadership, for stability and prosperity.”

US citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in elections. The Nov. 4 election will cap one of the longest presidential races ever, where voters have been showered with information on prospective candidates, including McCain, of Arizona, and Obama, from Illinois.

Both candidates have sought to address their economic, social, health and other policies to attract voters from around the US.

Davith Kuch, a graduate student in Maryland, said he was now waiting for a letter informing him where to vote. He encouraged others to exercise their right.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government and what’s going on, because you didn’t say your part,” he said. “You didn’t do your part in your duty to help change the government.”

Davith Kuch said he’d voted once before and hoped more people would turn out than in the 2004 election.