1/4/13 1:53 PM EST
he outcome wasn’t a surprise: Barack Obama was re-elected Friday to a second term as president.
There was no fretting about Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. There was no doubt about who would take Florida’s 29. And it was just a matter of reading a script to officially cast Virginia’s 13.
The votes of the much discussed but quickly forgotten Electoral College were tallied and certified in a joint session of Congress on Friday.
For Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, there were 332 votes cast. Republican Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan received 206 votes.
Only a handful of members of the House and Senate attended the ceremonial proceedings, and Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, wasn’t among them. There were more spectators in the galleries than members in the chamber.
The process, which in the early days of the nation would have been more suspenseful but is now simply a constitutional formality, went off without a hitch. The actual electors met in their respective states in December to cast their ballots. Friday’s process was the counting and certifying of those ballots that were sent to Washington.
The Electoral College, meant to provide a balance instead of a direct popular vote system, has come under fire in the past decade. But the actual proceedings were barely a blip on the radar, taking less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Biden and Speaker John Boehner presided over the proceedings, as four members took turns reading the certificates that had been mailed by each state to Washington. The ballots arrived in the House chamber in locked wooden boxes, held together with aged leather straps, that were proceeded in by student pages. Staff used ceremonial letter openers to excise each form from its envelope.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and Rep. Kevin Brady (D-Pa.) were the designated tellers, tasked with reading each state’s certification and keeping the tally.
Occasionally, when the votes of a particular state were announced in favor of Obama, a member from there cheered. And applause erupted after Biden officially called the session to an end.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) watched as the votes were tallied, smiling as the process was conducted. Then she moved to sit next to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the two chatted as the states at the end of the alphabet were read.
On the Republican side of the chamber, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sat with newly-appointed Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and the two talked and laughed while waiting for the ceremony to conclude.