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FAR FROM HOME, BUT VOTES COUNT

Americans living abroad show they are keenly engaged in choosing their nominees.

Americans flocked to churches in Rome, town halls in England and an Irish pub in Hong Kong on Tuesday to vote in a Democrats Abroad primary.

The voting will determine who gets the 11 votes allocated to Democrats Abroad at the Democratic National Convention in August. The group is allowing online voting - a first for voters overseas - that will continue for one week.

Porchester Hall in central London was jammed with high-spirited voters Tuesday evening as rival groups backing Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama chanted and waved banners for their candidates.

Republicans, meanwhile, made their Super Tuesday choices known through absentee ballots and predicted their party would unite behind whomever is nominated.

Most Democrats abroad focused on the contest between Clinton and Obama.

"I'm voting for Hillary. I'd like to see a woman in the White House," said Alison Kurke, who voted at the American Episcopal Church of St. Paul's in Rome. "I think she can hit the ground running. She's got the experience, she's got the brains."

But James McGuire, a 24-year-old Web site developer from Massachusetts who traveled to Rome from the Umbrian town of Orvieto, favored Obama.

"I think it's one of the most important in years," he said of the 2008 election. "If we do not get Barack Obama in the presidency, then we will have two families for over 20 years in the American political system. And I think that's unacceptable."

Americans voting overseas on Super Tuesday said they were particularly influenced by the candidates' foreign policy credentials. Democrats said they wanted a president who would steer the U.S. away from the Bush administration's foreign policies.

"We need a dramatic change in tone and tenor, and we need someone who truly, genuinely understands other cultures and can project that to the world," said Clifford Aron, 50, a businessman from Brooklyn who lives in Warsaw.

Turnout for the Democrats Abroad primary was expected to be high and results will be announced later this month.

Republicans Abroad did not have live or online voting. Republicans Abroad United Kingdom chairman Miki Bowman conceded the Democrats seem more energized now but predicted this would change after the candidates are chosen.

"I think our candidates are much less polarizing than the Democratic candidates, and we're confident whoever gets nominated has the likelihood of winning the presidency," she said.

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