The Nov. 4 editorial "Mr. Bush's Victory" correctly identified the need for our political leaders to take steps to build a working relationship to bridge the partisan divide.

Yet it erred in limiting the scope of the request to political leaders. All of us need to take part in this process.

We do not need to agree with one another. Quite the opposite; America benefits from the competition of ideas between the two parties. But we do need to respect one another and make an honest attempt to express admiration for the better qualities of our opponents.

Democrats need to respect the president's ability to win 59 million American votes. Republicans need to respect the passion of the Democrats' campaign, an obvious sign of their devotion to this country. Respect is the buttress that can uphold civility in discourse. It allows us to remain true to our differing ideals while still engaging in constructive debate.

President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry started the process on Wednesday. Now we must continue it.

JOSEPH W. BEACH

McLean

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President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., said that the incumbent president had received the most votes of any candidate in American history. While this is true, he could have pointed out that Sen. John F. Kerry had received the second-most votes of any presidential candidate in history. Even with the campaigning ended, the spinning continues. Americans deserve a break from the spin.

DON BEALE

Arlington

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The Post's Nov. 3 Election 2004 section had a picture of an older gentleman casting his ballot at a Baptist church in New Braunfels, Tex. Clearly visible above his head in large letters was a homage to God.

How would a non-Christian living in New Braunfels feel about that polling place?

The separation of church and state is being eroded in this country, and we need to resist this development, which the Republican win would seem to endorse.

JOHN DesMARTEAU

Washington

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According to the 2000 Census, 16.3 percent of the U.S. population residing in the least-populous states casts 22.3 percent of the electoral vote. Hardly consistent with "one person, one vote."

Further, the 13 states with the smallest populations can block any constitutional amendment -- with a population of 12.7 million or 4.5 percent of the U.S. population.

There has been much speculation of what ramifications a direct popular vote in national elections would have. Perhaps at least a good part of the answer might be found in a study of the experience of elections for statewide offices, such as governor, U.S. senator, attorney general, comptroller, etc. A number of states have one or more large urban populations, plus some rural hinterlands.

ROGER D. LEONARD

Bowie

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The phone woke me just past 11 a.m. Tuesday, still early for a high-school senior celebrating his sixth day of manhood. I had just turned 18 and would be voting for the first time.

On the phone was my mother, yelling at me to put on my socks and get to the polls. She said the wait in line outside the United Methodist Church in Arlington was an hour and a half, to which I responded, "No wonder people don't vote."

My mom was not pleased, and reminded me that democracy is not convenient.

In a very American fashion, I drove the block and a half to the polling site. I parked, found my mom and began taking part in my civic duty.

Most of the people in line resembled my middle-aged parents. Despite the wait, they seemed happy to be there.

In school I've learned that many aspects of our country's political system remain in place mainly because of tradition. On Election Day I saw firsthand how everything about voting is based on tradition and treated as sacrosanct. Under the watchful eyes of poll workers, the woman in front of me couldn't even hand me a voter recommendation sheet. People put so much effort into voting.

Then it was my turn. I couldn't believe how excited and nervous I was. For one second, when I stepped up to the voting booth, I felt like I was embarking on something important. The day after the election, I'm not so sure. News reports say that only one in 10 kids between 18 and 25 years old bothered to vote.

I wish more people my age would have put on their socks and hit the polls.

CUTTER HODIERNE

Arlington

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Whether or not we agree with the outcome, the reelection of President Bush brought with it the mandate to stay the course in Iraq.

But I have a suggestion for the Republican National Committee. As it raises funds to underwrite parades, balls and other celebrations related to the inauguration, why not ask the individual and corporate sponsors to designate half their contributions for parties and half for much-needed equipment for our soldiers?

An Iraq Equipment Fund could be a compelling appeal, could offer the donor the same level of recognition with the GOP and would have longer-term benefits to our nation.

SANDRA A. ADAMS

Washington