Clinton picks up a belated delegate

From the Associated Press

Nine days after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote in New Mexico's Democratic caucus and picked up an extra delegate.

State Democratic Chairman Brian Colon made the announcement Thursday after a marathon hand count of 17,000 provisional ballots that had to be given to voters Feb. 5 because of long lines and a shortage of ballots.

The final statewide count gave Clinton a 1,709-vote edge over rival Sen. Barack Obama: 73,105, or 48.8% of the vote, to 71,396, or 47.6%.

The former first lady's victory in the popular vote swung the final unallocated New Mexico delegate into her column, giving Clinton 14 delegates and Obama 12 in the state.

With the addition of New Mexico's delegate, the national delegate count stood at 1,276 for Obama and 1,220 for Clinton.

Of the 22 states that held Democratic primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, New Mexico was the last to report a winner. The caucus was run by the state Democratic Party instead of the state government.

New Mexico Democrats call their contest a caucus, but it's not like Iowa's caucuses, where voters gather in gyms, churches or meeting rooms; divide into groups for each candidate; try to attract more support from other groups; and then count each group. It more closely resembles a "fire-hall primary," which has shorter voting hours and fewer voting sites than in traditional primaries.

In the end, it was a mess. Overwhelmed polling places had long lines, some that took three hours. There were too few ballots and confusion over where to vote. In Rio Rancho, one of the state's largest cities, a single polling place had 1,900 people in line an hour before the polls closed.

Colon has apologized repeatedly.

"We absolutely miscalculated, and I apologize," he said. "It's a tragedy when folks are not afforded the opportunity to vote."

The criticism included some from Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, a former presidential hopeful who said he was "deeply disturbed" by the problems.

Partly because he was a candidate until mid-January, Richardson never got involved in helping to plan or promote the caucus, as he did in 2004, the first year New Mexico tried it.

New Mexico awards Democratic delegates proportionally, based on statewide vote totals and on the results in individual congressional districts.

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