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Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 6:52am

Venezuelans Cast Absentee Ballots in Duluth

Hundreds of Venezuelans made the trek to Duluth northwest of Atlanta Sunday to cast their absentee ballots in Venezuala’s first-ever primary election. Henrique Capriles, a 39-year-old governor won a landslide victory and will now challenge President Hugo Chavez in October’s general election. But many of Georgia’s estimated 35-hundred Venezuelans have been unable to register to vote.

More than 900 frustrated Venezuelans showed up at the Duluth polling station Sunday to sign a petition demanding access to voter registration.

The immigrants are here legally and in order to vote in a Venezuelan election, they must register to vote in person at the Miami consulate.

But last month, President Hugo Chavez shut the consulate down after the United States expelled a Venezuelan diplomat. That cut off registration access for thousands of prospective opposition voters like Tomas Lefkovits.

Lefkovits says, “If I don’t participate in a process where I can make my vote heard, it’s an empty chore…anything I do pro-democracy. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem…and I want to be part of the solution.”

The Venezuelan consulate in New Orleans announced Tuesday that they will register Southeast voters while the Miami office is closed.