Now that the voters have decisively spoken, most of the lawyers have gone home and plans are being made to tackle important issues, here are some reflections on the 2004 election:
* The election process worked. After the 2000 elections and problems at some polling places this year, there was good reason to wonder if the outcome of the presidential race might be delayed for weeks.
But the margins of victory were large enough to prevent ballot recounts and major legal challenges.
By modern standards, this election was about as smooth as anyone could expect.
* President Bush received the most votes of any president in history -- and the first majority vote since 1968. (Quick: Who remembers the winner in 1968?)
This year's turnout also was, at 60 percent of eligible voters, the largest since 1968.
* Voters decided this election, not pollsters.
While polls play a major role in campaign strategy, they have taken unwarranted prominence in campaign news reporting. While polling has never been -- and never will be -- an exact science, too many polls are clearly wrong.
Exit polling last Tuesday is an example. If the news media had relied -- as they have too often in the past -- on exit-poll data to pick winners, John Kerry would have been wrongly declared the next president early in the evening.
* A hard-fought campaign, whether for president or some local office, leaves scars as political charges are tossed about.
After the election, both politicians and the general public are left to assess the damage.
Claims made by both sides on the national level raised real issues that ought not to be ignored now that the heat of battle has passed.
* This year's presidential campaign was probably the longest in history, fueled by the so-called 527 organizations that were permitted to collect unlimited political donations to be used to promote a candidate's ideology.
Both political parties took advantage of the 527 money grab.
This is an area that needs corrective action.
* Voters in 11 more states have, by wide margins, indicated that the concept of marriage between a man and a woman is not only sacred, but should be protected by state constitutions.
Of all the races and issues decided this year, the marriage issue was one of the most important to voters.
* Southeast Missouri will have a fair share of influence on state government when 2005 rolls around.
In addition to having Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau as lieutenant governor, state Rep. Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, Mo., already has been picked by his fellow House Republicans to become the next speaker.
In addition, expect newly elected state Sen. Jason Crowell to exert his influence at the other end of the Capitol in much the same way he did as a newbie in the House.
* Overall, it was pretty much a clean sweep for Republicans in Missouri. The GOP strengthened its majority in both the House and Senate and swept most statewide offices.
Robin Carnahan's election as secretary of state showed that voters can choose whomever they think is the best person.
Her brother, Russ Carnahan, also picked up a St. Louis seat in the U.S. House.
Both showed the power of the Carnahan name.
* Finally, waiting a few hours for a decision in the presidential election is far better than waiting a month.
Credit goes to Senator Kerry for his decision to concede in the face of insurmountable odds rather than get into a legal imbroglio.
-- Southeast Missourian