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Super Tuesday begins for Americans abroad

/ Source: The Associated Press

Democrats living overseas became the first to vote in the Super Tuesday primaries, casting ballots at the stroke of midnight in Indonesia, where Barack Obama lived as a child.

Americans in more than 30 nations will line up over the next week to vote for their nominee in the 2008 U.S. presidential race, casting ballots at a hotel in Australia, a pub in Ireland and a Starbucks in Thailand, according to Democrats Abroad, an official branch of the party representing expatriates.

Other Democrats will cast votes for the first time ever by Internet — an option Republicans remain unable to offer voters — while the remainder will stick to more traditional means of mail or fax.

Some 6 million Americans living abroad are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, but only a fraction have done so in the past.

The only option until recently was for Americans living abroad to mail absentee ballot request forms to their last U.S. county of residence, then wait in hopes that shaky mail systems would deliver the ballots in time to vote.

Obama lived with his mother in Indonesia from the age of 6 until 10, growing up with exotic pets, like his monkey Tata, and tasting rare delicacies, from snake meat to grasshoppers.

"There is a bit of rooting for the hometown boy," said Tristram Perry, the public diplomacy officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, as more than 100 voters began gathering at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in the bustling capital.

Conrad Gardiner, who has spent almost all of his 22 years in Indonesia, was voting for the first time. "I'm voting for Obama because of his Indonesian background," Gardiner said. "That will make him stronger in international affairs."