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Clinton Releases Delegates, Then Moves for Acclamation

Angered and confused by the procedure for casting their nomination votes, many delegates supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) planned to cast their ballots for Sen. Barack Obama (D-N.Y.) in Wednesday night’s roll-call vote — before Clinton short-circuited the process by asking that the nomination be approved by acclamation.

Just hours before the vote kicked off, Clinton told her 1,920 delegates that she was releasing them to cast their votes for Obama, though she left the door open for them to vote for her.

“I’m here today to release you as my delegates,” Clinton said moments before being drowned out by shouts of protest.

“I’m not telling you what to do,” Clinton told her supporters, who erupted into “Hillary!” chants throughout her speech. “Many of you feel a responsibility to represent the voters in your state. Others want a chance to vote what’s in your heart.”

But Clinton cut off the state-by-state voting when she moved to accept Obama’s nomination by acclamation.

Clinton, hidden in the New York delegation’s seats, was called upon to cast the votes for New York, which had gained the carried-over votes from Illinois and New Mexico after both states passed their votes. She then requested the convention suspend the procedural rules so that all votes could be cast for Obama and he be nominated by at least a two-thirds vote.

“With the goal of victory, with faith in our party, let’s declare together with one lone voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate, and he will be our president,” Clinton said.

Earlier in the day, Clinton delegates were greeted with another unexpected change to the voting process: They were told to cast their ballots from their hotels that morning. And many of them stuck with Clinton, as she had not yet released them.

The last-minute plan to tally votes in advance and read them from the floor later in the evening was negotiated by the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Delegates were told to submit their ballots by midday and, if they wanted to make any changes, they would have to travel to the Pepsi Center by 4 p.m. MDT.

Between those hours, “I guess there is somebody who will be working us to try to get us to change our votes,” said Ione Shadduck, a Clinton delegate from Iowa. “Typical politics.”

“I’ll do whatever she tells us,” Shadduck said. “There’s a lot of holdovers like me.”

But Clinton emphasized that the most important thing is that Obama will be nominated as the next president by the end of the night.

“I signed my ballot this morning for Sen. Obama,” Clinton said in a midafternoon meeting with delegates, a statement that drew a mild level of cheers. “But a lot of other people signing your ballots have made a different choice.”

The New York Democrat got some laughs when reflecting on surprises and disappointments over the last seven years under President Bush. This included when “the vice president shot someone in the face in Texas” and Bush being at the Beijing Olympics with the beach volleyball team while Russia was invading Georgia.

Overall, the primary experience was humbling and inspiring, Clinton said. “We didn’t make it, but boy did we have a good time.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who introduced Clinton before she met with her delegates Wednesday afternoon, said there “certainly was some hurt at the end” of the primary when she narrowly lost.

“But let me tell you … the hurt that some of us feel today would be so much worse if John McCain was president of the United States,” Nutter said, referring to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. McCain (Ariz.).

After Clinton’s speech came to an end, she stayed behind signing autographs and greeting her supporters for another 20 minutes as the song “American Girl” by Tom Petty blasted from the speakers.

In the buildup to Clinton’s meeting with her supporters, scores of people adorned with Hillary pins and glittering hats wound around the main floor of the convention hall.

“Is this the Hillary line?” was a frequent question heard from passers-by. Referring to the number of votes Clinton received in the primary, one Louisiana delegate scanning the lines shook her head and commented, “All 18 million of them are here.”

Nicole Henninger contributed to this report.