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'It's going to be a good day'

With optimism, Iraqis head to the polls

By Anderson Cooper

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering news around the world. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports live from Iraq this week at 10 p.m. ET (0300 GMT).

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CNN's Anderson Cooper

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

BAQUBA, Iraq (CNN) -- "It's going to be a good day."

That's what the gunner of the Humvee I rode in this morning said. She wasn't talking about this country's historic elections; it was more of a daily affirmation, the kind of thing I think she says every morning, but that doesn't matter.

I think it is going to be a good day. I'm in Baquba, a city that last year was a hotbed of the insurgency. Now, attacks in this province are down 30 percent to 40 percent.

Right now I'm in a polling station, and it's a couple of hours before people can vote. I'm sitting in a ceramic plated armored vest, and we are setting up for broadcast.

Polls will open halfway through 360, and if people are lined up, we should be able to see the first votes being cast in this city. That's the plan. Of course, in Iraq plans don't mean much.

Last January at this polling station, the election officials didn't show up for several hours, nor did the ballots. People here didn't actually get to vote until the afternoon. Even if people don't show this morning, it's going to be exciting.

I've been to a number of countries for historic elections: Cambodia after years of brutal rule and occupation, South Africa after apartheid. South Africa was extraordinary. The line I stood on in Soweto snaked for hours, people waiting patiently in the hot sun.

I was in Baghdad in January as well. There was such excitement, so much was unknown. Would insurgents attack polling sites? Would people come out? They did, and the insurgents didn't. The difference this time is that many Sunnis seem to have realized they made a mistake by not participating then, and they plan to cast votes now.

As the day progresses, we shall see.

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