2 700 Cast Votes in Los Angeles Polling

BY DAVID DERSARKISSIAN Asbarez Staff Writer

GLENDALE–Some 2,700 citizens of Armenia living in Glendale and the greater Los Angeles area flocked to local polling stations Monday and cast their votes for the next president of Armenia. They joined the almost 2 million voters in Armenia who were chosing between Acting President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharian and challenger Karen Demirchian.

"The people of Armenia’spoke–for the first time in a long time–and it was wonderful that those of us in America who are Armenian have been allowed to have a voice as well," said Mkrtich Hambartsumyan–51–of Glendale. "This is the first time I have felt a part of my homeland since moving here seven years ago. I am excited about what is going on."

"Everything has been running smoothly so far," said Armenia’s Consul in Los Angeles Edward Taranian–who was overseeing the polling place at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles on Brand Blvd. in Glendale.

"People are eager to vote–to take part in democracy–and we have had a large turnout so far. More will come later at night."

During Monday’s vote–LA-area some 1,217 Armenian citizens voted for Kocharian–while 1,407 voted for Demirchian.

Kocharian beat Demirchian with a 20 percent margin–garnering 60 percent of the total votes.

Polling places were also open in Beverly Hills–New York and Washington.

"There is a sense of optimism that the voting will be fair this time around–and that we will finally elect a president we want," said Taguhi Mnatsakanyan–39–of Pasadena. "We will show the world we can choose for ourselves–and I hope the better man wins."

At the Armenian Society of Los Angeles Monday–prospective voters were given numbers as they arrived–and could wait either outside or in a 75-seat waiting area inside the building.

Once called–voters would walk toward a long table at the north end of the room for processing–where their Armenian or Russian passport would be verified–and signature collected. Walked down the long table–the voter would be handed a voting slip–and be directed to the south end of the room–where four booths stood–draped with a blue cloth for privacy.

Emerging from the booth–voters would then walk to two deposit boxes at the west end of the room–placing their signed card in one–then walking to the second to deposit their voting slip. Each box was guarded by election officials to prevent fraud.

"We have about nine official members of the consulate here–and then a corp of volunteers to help register the voters," Taranian said. "Things have been moving well."

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