Vice President Joe Biden, serving as president of the Senate, presided over the counting of Electoral College votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the sparsely attended session. The vote count lacked the history of 2009, when Obama became the first black president, or the controversies of 2001 and 2005, when some lawmakers protested contested votes in Florida and Ohio, respectively.
As expected, the Obama-Biden ticket received 332 votes for president and vice president, well in excess of the 270 needed to win. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) received 206 votes. There were no “faithless electors,” or members of the Electoral College who cast votes for a different candidate than the one who had won in his or her state.
Friday’s ceremony closed a three-step process that chooses the nation’s president and vice president. It began 59 days ago when polls closed across the country on election day. On Dec. 17, the 538 electors met in state capitals to cast votes based on the state results, and those tallies were then read Friday in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
It was only Friday that all 50 states plus the District of Columbia produced certified vote counts, according to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, who has been tracking the raw vote. After Hawaii became the final state to produce a certified tally, the national popular vote stood at 65,899,557 votes (51.06%) for Obama and 60,931,959 votes (47.21%) for Romney.
In the last 200 years, 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College, according to the National Archives.
But the process has been under increased scrutiny since the controversial 2000 election, when Al Gore won the national popular vote but narrowly lost among electors. Some states with Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors are considering doing away with the winner-take-all method of allocating their respective states' electors.
A separate effort called National Popular Vote seeks to produce an end run around the Electoral College by creating an interstate compact in which participating states would award electors to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the outcome in that state.
Obama and Biden will be sworn in for their second terms on Sunday, Jan. 20, in a private ceremony, with a public ceremonial swearing-in following on Jan. 21 at the U.S. Capitol. The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Friday that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will administer the presidential oath to Obama, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the vice presidential oath to Biden.
According to the committee, Sotomayor will be the fourth female judge and the first Latino to administer an oath of office.