How it happened

The roll call at the Democratic convention was brought to the symbolic end that was expected when Hillary Clinton asked that Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation.

Published August 28, 2008 12:00AM (EDT)

DENVER -- There are almost certainly still some people out there who are upset by how the roll-call vote here at the Democratic convention was conducted. But the Democrats did a stellar job of making sure the vote made as many people as possible happy, and in bringing it to an end that showed the country a unified Democratic Party.

As expected, many state delegations were able to cast their votes before the roll call was halted. With Hillary Clinton having released her delegates earlier in the day, however, most of the votes didn't reflect the actual results of the primaries and caucuses held earlier this year. Clinton still got some votes, though far fewer than she had won over the course of this year, as many of her delegates followed her example and voted for Barack Obama.

Often, the conventions are carefully stage-managed, with some delegations passing when it comes to their turn, so that a state with a certain symbolism can be the one to put the candidate over the top. This year, the vote was coordinated to show the party's unity, and to ensure that Obama would not get a majority of the votes before Clinton herself had a chance to weigh in from the floor.

By the time the vote came to New Mexico, Obama had picked up a total of 1,549.5 votes to Clinton's 341.5. But as the proceedings were going in alphabetical order, that meant it was time to ensure the smoothest possible transition to New York, the state Clinton represents in the Senate. So New Mexico yielded -- to Illinois, which Obama represents in the same body, and which had itself yielded earlier. Then, with the requisite speechifying, Illinois itself yielded to New York and the moment everyone was waiting for.

At first, there was a small cheer, as the delegations nearest New York saw Clinton, flanked by her fellow senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, get into position. And when her face came on the big screen, the hall erupted.

"In the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let's declare in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and that he will be our next president," Clinton said. "Madame Secretary, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the further conduct of the roll-call vote, all votes cast by the delegates will be counted, and I move that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party."

Asked if there was anyone who would second the motion, the entire hall responded as one. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, serving as chairwoman, then conducted the vote -- she got a resounding "aye," and didn't give time for the "nos" to respond (none could be heard anyway) before bringing down the gavel and declaring Obama the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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