As a week of voting gets underway in south Sudan, tens of thousands of people who used to live there but now call the US home are also having their say.

Polling stations have been set up in multiple locations across the US to accommodate people originally from the south who want to influence the vote.

I've come to one of those locations at Alexandria in Virginia where there's two long lines of people waiting to vote for a new country.

The mood is ecstatic! People are singing, chanting, dancing and taking plenty of photos.

A bitterly cold northeast wind isn't enough to keep Christine Gedim from casting her vote.

Though the weather in South Sudan is very different from this part of the world, Christine's keen to tell anyone who'll listen why it's important to vote.

"I'm casting my vote for those who fought in the trenches, the men and women who fought in the trenches of southern Sudan to bring us freedom today."

I find myself saying to her, "You're going to have to wait a long time, have you seen the length of the line?  She said, "I've seen the length of the line and it's worth sacrificing."

Inside the polling station, out of the cold, voting is brisk and though the outcome of the referendum's likely to be in favour of succession from northern Sudan, there's a long way to go before a new South can be created ... but that's the furthest thing on the minds of those who've just voted.

"Now this is the moment, we have actually voted for separation.  We want to be on our own," one man is saying as he holds up an inked finger.

Between 25,000 and 50,000 southern Sudanese are believed to be living in the United States.

Voting Centres have been set up across 8 states: In Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Arizona and Washington.

Almost 1000 people are expected to cast votes in Alexandria alone.

Among those is former "Lost Boy" Thon Chol who prayed about the outcome at a nearby interfaith service on the eve of the poll. 

"I can’t really describe the feeling.  One thing that came into my mind clear and sound is to thank the world for listening to the voices and the cries of the people of southern Sudan."

Voting continues here 'til Saturday and at all the other polling stations across the United States. 

An extra measure of the enthusiasm and commitment is evident when you realise people are expected to show up to vote in Alexandria from as far away as the north-eastern state of Maine and that's roughly 12 hours away by car.