FALLUJAH, Iraq -- By voting against the constitution, Ammar Mustafa wanted to do more than reject a document that he thinks will divide Iraq. The young Sunni Arab wanted to show the Americans that he did not appreciate what he saw as the United States meddling in his country.
''This is a contribution to democracy my way, not the American way," he said.
He and other Sunni Arab voters in Fallujah, and in other cities and towns in Iraq, turned out in surprising numbers yesterday, many of them heeding calls of clerics to reject the charter. The constitution would be defeated if two-thirds of voters in three Sunni provinces reject it, even if it gains a majority nationwide.
But even if Sunnis do not block the ratification, a strong ''no" vote within the community would raise questions about whether the charter will fulfill the US goal of luring fighters away from the insurgency.
Many Sunnis oppose the constitution because they consider it a US-designed instrument aimed at dividing the country and benefiting Shi'ites and Kurds.
''We have entered the political process because our rights were being usurped," said Hazem Jassim, a 45-year-old Sunni, referring to other factions.
Turnout was low in western areas of Anbar Province, which is heavily Sunni and is viewed as the front line of the insurgency.
Most residents there stayed at home, and polls stood almost empty. Yet few Shi'ites and Kurds live in Anbar.
In the western city of Ramadi, Sunni insurgents attacked Iraqi and US forces yesterday as the voting began. Mortar and rocket blasts as well as machine-gun fire, echoed around the regional governor's compound. Clashes also occurred in other parts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.
While Sunni clerics had called for a no vote, militant groups had warned people to stay away from the polls altogether.
In Baghdad, insurgents attacked three polling stations during the referendum, wounding two police officers and a civilian, police said. Violence also occurred near the southern city of Basra. No injuries were reported late yesterday.
In Haditha, a conservative Sunni Arab city of about 60,000 people in western Anbar, only about 150 voters showed up at the main polling station, a heavily guarded school at the top of a hill.
Of those voters, only one was a woman. Wearing a veil, she gripped her husband's hand as they climbed the steep walkway to the polls.
Turnout was much stronger in Fallujah, the Sunni insurgent stronghold seized last November by US forces.
It was unclear whether the new Sunni acceptance of the political process would continue if the constitution wins approval. Most Sunni clerics had urged their followers to reject it.
Indeed, what drove Fallujah's Sunnis to the polls was a determination to block the charter's ratification.
In Fallujah, Sunnis marched to the polls past drab buildings pockmarked with bullet holes, and past walls bearing graffiti hailing Saddam Hussein, who led the former Sunni-dominated regime.
It was impossible to tell whether residents in western Anbar had stayed away from polls because of apathy or fear of insurgent attacks, or because the location of polling centers was announced minutes before polls opened.
''I wanted to participate in the referendum," said Hamid al-Ani, 35, a grocer in Ramadi where there was almost no voting. ''But I was deterred by the bad security situation, where nobody can leave his house without risking his life."
Material from Reuters was included in this report.