Early voting for provincial elections in Iraq began on Wednesday.

Among the early voters were members of the police and military, hospital patients and some prison inmates, the Associated Press reported.

Smooth elections may encourage supporters of early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq while elections marred by irregularities and violence could raise worries about Iraq’s preparedness, the Associated Press noted.

There were reports of sporadic attacks in early voting, AP said. Two police officers guarding an early election center were killed, AP reported, citing anonymous police and medical officials who weren’t authorized to release information.

“It’s my duty to vote for a better Iraq,” said Salwa Majid, a 21-year-old mother voting in the southern city of Najaf, as she cradled her new born son, according to AP.

A total of 14,400 candidates, including 3,900 women are competing for 440 seats on ruling councils in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces, AP reported. While Baghdad central authorities control the country’s overall policies, councils have authority which includes making commercial deals and setting spending priorities.