For the cooped-up children of bomb-weary Baghdad, referendum day was a winner, no matter what the final outcome.

A security ban on private vehicles, invoked to keep would-be bombers from reaching targets, had a blissful side effect: The boys and girls of Baghdad took back the streets for a day.

"Do you want us to tell you something?" asked Tamara Majeed, 11, when a visitor interrupted her friends as they sketched a chalk outline for tuki -- a form of hopscotch -- in the middle of a potholed street in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim district of 2 million.

Barely waiting for an answer, the group of schoolgirls in pigtails, bows and scarves burst into song.

"Let your vote revolt," their high voices sang in a made-for-the-day anthem learned recently in school. The song continued, referring to the former ruling party of Saddam Hussein: "Don't let us down -- don't make me return to the Baathist grave."

"Latifiyah!" the growing ring of girls belted out, evoking the name of a Sunni Arab stronghold, since 2003 a bugaboo to scare children. "We won't ever be with the terrorists. . . . We will pass through Latifiyah because we are strong Shiites!"

In Baghdad's heavily Shiite, middle-class Karrada district, thousands of children spilled out onto the streets, bicycling and wobbling on roller skates down deserted thoroughfares. Two months ago, a car bomb targeting police exploded there, then a second bomb went off after children had gathered at the scene.

"We saw pieces of flesh even on the roofs of the building," said Johnnie Michael, 17, whose name reflects his Christian background.

One boy pointed out where flying glass had cut him. Another pointed to a scar on his leg left by the blast.

Faisal Mohammed, 11, said he hoped the new constitution would bring security.

"We fear the explosions," he said. "We want to go out and play."

Abdul Hussein Ahmed, 63, emerged from a polling station in the southern city of Najaf with his purple ink-stained finger aloft. "Five members of my family were killed by Saddam and his people," he declared. "But now, with this constitution, everyone is equal under the law."

In a Shiite holy city, where hundreds of people bear physical and emotional scars from persecution under Hussein, the ousted president, many said the act of casting a vote in favor of the proposed constitution was a repudiation of that history. Shiite politicians dominated the drafting of the document and, along with most religious leaders, have encouraged their supporters to vote "yes."

Still, not everyone followed that advice. Several of those who said they voted against the constitution said they were supporters of Moqtada Sadr, a popular Shiite cleric and outspoken critic of the U.S. presence in Iraq who did not issue an order to followers about how they should vote.

Razifa Hussein Abdullah arrived at the polling station with tears in her eyes. Her husband, Hussein Salim, 67, who appeared to be in poor health, leaned on her for balance as they walked. They had returned several months ago from exile in Iran, where they had fled during the intense scrutiny of Shiites during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

"We suffered a lot, and today I came to get revenge for all these years I stayed away from my country, to feel that I am Iraqi again," she said. "It was a dream to get rid of Saddam, and today is another dream come true."

In Mosul's lower-middle-class neighborhood of Jazayer, voters expressed their joy over the referendum with a Kurdish debka, swirling and tapping their feet as Kurdish songs came uncontrollably from their mouths.

The debka, a celebratory dance, started at the exit of the polling station in Jazayer and slowly mushroomed. Three uniformed policemen in this northern city were joined by four youths, two wearing traditional Kurdish costumes, and before long the group was a spreading throng.

"When I came out of the polling center, I saw the group dancing. I was feeling great, having voted 'yes,' so I joined in," said Ribwar Ali Murad, 25, a Kurdish student at Mosul University. "I am totally overjoyed with this day."

The dance reached its peak when three police cars passed by, blaring patriotic songs from their loudspeakers, exalting Baghdad and the new constitution.

"I found myself turning and twisting naturally when I heard the police cars playing those songs," said policeman Khjalil Salem Mohammad, 30. "I couldn't control myself."

The electricity was out, and electoral workers had to check voting rolls by the light of a lantern. But that did not dim the enthusiasm of voters at Khomali Kindergarten in the Kurdish-controlled city of Sulaymaniyah.

"This process legitimizes the fate of our nation," said Salih Saeed Mohammed, 64, as he blew on his ink-stained finger. Mohammed, who said he voted in favor of the constitution, was referring to the semiautonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Mother and daughter Khawar Abdul Karim, 46, and Shokhan Raheem, 21, emerged from the polling station hand-in-hand. "In January, we voted for the status of the new Iraq government," said Raheem. "Now, we vote for the constitution that gives us our rights as Iraqis."

"We want success for our country," Karim said as she wrapped a piece of tissue around her finger to dry the ink. "Like other countries, we want to have our own constitution."

Around lunchtime, a platoon of Iraqi police commandos from the Fakher Brigade -- clad in brown-and-green camouflage uniforms, blue flak vests and red berets -- arrived at a Najaf polling station in a fleet of white sport-utility vehicles. After a morning spent patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints, they had been given one hour to vote.

Local police patted them down on their way inside Sajedat High School for Girls. The soldiers dutifully handed over the AK-47 assault rifles slung from their shoulders, to be kept at the entrance until they were finished.

"We were not ordered to come, we were given a choice, but we wanted to be able to support the constitution," said Dhia Mehasen Khadum, 39, a commando who said everyone in his almost entirely Shiite unit was voting in favor of the constitution. "Some of it was good and some of it was bad. I am voting for the good in it."

On their way out, the soldiers were prompted by photographers to mug for the cameras. With rifles held aloft, they chanted together, "Our constitution is done and ready for a vote!" Then, in a slap at Saddam Hussein's political party, they added: "Die Baathists, die Baathists, die Baathists!"

Across the street, Ali Jassim and his two sons opened their fruit and vegetable stall at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than usual, to take advantage of their prime location. Customers streamed in and out from the moment voting began, carting off plastic shopping bags stuffed with onions, garlic, apples and tomatoes.

"Thanks be to God," said Jassim, 34. "It is much better than most days, with so many people passing by." Then, remembering it was Ramadan, the month when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours, he quickly added: "No one is breaking the fast. They are only buying things to bring home and eat later."

Brothers Naseer Abbas and Munthir Abbas Elaiwi, 38 and 26, arrived at polling center No. 65012 in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood ready to vote with their blood.

The center's director, Emad Abdul Majeed, rushed up with a pin and pricked their thumbs. The two men smeared a bloody print over the "yes" box, then dipped their forefingers in purple ink to prove they had voted. Onlookers beamed at the ritual, popularized under Hussein, signifying that they would sacrifice their blood for what they believed in.

"We are ready to defend this constitution with our blood," Naseer said. The constitution "serves not only the poor and the dispossessed, but it's fair to all segments of society."

His brother, a day laborer, said he read the charter and found it modern and satisfying.

"It will bring all that is good for the people, such as stability, democracy and peace," he said. "With such a charter, we will show the world that we are a civilized nation, not a bunch of ignorant and bloodthirsty extremists."

Reported by correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer and special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad; correspondent Jonathan Finer and special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Saad Sarhan in Najaf; special correspondent Dlovan Brwari in Mosul; and staff writer Jackie Spinner in Sulaymaniyah.

A boy greets a U.S. Marine with a playful gesture near a polling station in Fallujah, Iraq. With a security ban on private vehicles imposed in many places for the referendum, children were able to briefly reclaim the streets.