US troops in Iraq encouraged to vote in November

BAGHDAD (AP) -- U.S. troops in Iraq were encouraged to vote in November's presidential election during a visit this week by a group of officials from several states.

The delegation was in Iraq to see how the military tracks registration and ballots sent from bases to the United States ahead of the Nov. 4 vote, the military said Wednesday in a statement.

"Service members are already providing a valuable service for our country in defending our democracy," Pennsylvania's Secretary of State Pedro Cortes was quoted as saying. "That democracy cannot continue to stand if people do not participate in the electoral process. It's our most fundamental right of citizenship and also our responsibility."

He and other officials from California, Indiana, Mississippi and Florida met Tuesday with Brig. Gen. Michael Lally, who as leader of the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) has responsibility for mail distribution in Iraq.

Lally's command, which is based north of Baghdad in Balad, individually tracks registration and ballots from post offices on bases in Iraq to New York's John F. Kennedy airport, where they are received for distribution, according to the statement.

Cortes said he and his colleagues were impressed with the way U.S. military officials "were taking proactive steps in making sure all service members are aware of specific voting deadlines and requirements of their respective states."

He told the troops it is important that their voices are heard at home.

"I'm so delighted to be here in Iraq and I want to wish our troops a great election time," Cortes said. "It's very important that you vote so please make sure that you do."

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