For some, the vote was effectively a referendum on Morsi himself, who opponents accuse of turning the government into a monopoly for the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the village of Ikhsas in the Giza countryside south of Cairo, buses ferried women voters to the polling centers in an effort villagers said was by the Muslim Brotherhood.
An elderly man who voted “no” screamed in the polling station that the charter is “a Brotherhood constitution.”
“We want a constitution in the interest of Egypt. We want a constitution that serves everyone, not just the Brotherhood. They can’t keep fooling the people,” 68-year-old Ali Hassan, wearing traditional robes, said.
Mohammed Ibrahim, a 34-year-old employee in a state company, said he’s voting no because of the deaths during the protests. “Does it make sense to have a constitution written with blood?” He said. “We are starting a new system much like the old one.”
But the draw of stability that many hope will come from having a constitution was strong. Though few fault-lines in Egypt is clear-cut black and white, there appeared to be an economic split in voting, with many of the middle and upper classes rejecting the charter and the poor voting “yes.”
In Ikhsas, Hassan Kamel, a 49-year-old day worker, said “We the poor will pay the price” of a no vote.
He dismissed the opposition leadership as elite and out of touch. “Show me an office for any of those parties that say no here in Ikhsas or south of Cairo. They are not connecting with people.”
The promise of stability even drew one Christian woman in Fayoum, south of Cairo, to vote “yes” — a break with most Christians nationwide who oppose the draft. Hanaa Zaki said she wanted an end to Egypt’s deepening economic woes.
“I have a son who didn’t get paid for the past six months. We have been in this crisis for so long and we are fed up,” said Zaki, waiting in line along with bearded Muslim men and Muslim women wearing headscarves in Fayoum, a province that is home to both a large Christian community and a strong Islamist movement.
In the neighboring village of Sheikh Fadl, a car fitted with loudspeakers toured the area with a man shouting, “Yes, yes to the constitution!” In the city of Fayoum, a man could be seen painting over posters urging people to vote “no.”
In Giza’s upscale Mohandiseen neighborhood, a group of 12 women speaking to each other in a mix of French, Arabic and English said they all intended to vote “no.”
“My friends are Muslim and are voting ‘no.’ It’s not about Christian versus Muslim, but it is Muslim Brotherhood versus everyone else,” said one of them, Shahira Sadeq, a Christian physician.
Kamla el-Tantawi, 65, voted with her daughter and grand-daughter. “I voted ‘no’ against what I’m seeing,” she said, gesturing to a woman standing close by wearing the full-face veil known as niqab, a hallmark of ultraconservative Muslim women.
“I lose sleep thinking about my grandchildren and their future. They never saw the beautiful Egypt we did,” she said, harkening back to a time decades ago when few women even wore headscarves covering their hair, much less the black niqab that blankets the entire body and leaves only the eyes visible.