- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

It’s official. Barack Obama won the election.

The president-elect, technically, was not the president-elect until Thursday afternoon, when a joint session of Congress formally certified the Electoral College votes from each state and the District of Columbia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was the first to jump to her feet after Vice President Dick Cheney, who presided over the session as president of the senate, declared Mr. Obama the next president of the United States at 1:35 p.m. Senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle then stood in applause.

Lawmakers likewise gave standing ovations to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Republican rivals Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden received 365 electoral votes, well beyond the 270 required by the Constitution to be seated. Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin collected 173 votes.

The event lasted for roughly half an hour, opening about 1 p.m. with Mr. Cheney leading a procession of senators into the House chamber. They were followed by congressional pages carrying boxes and envelopes containing vote totals.

Two senators and two representatives took turns reading aloud the tallies from each state in alphabetical order. Applause erupted after it was announced that the 55 electoral votes from California would go to Mr. Obama — votes from the previous four states had all gone to Mr. McCain.

The ceremony marked the first time in years that the tallying of electoral results was not wrought with drama.

In January 2005, Democrats delayed the process for hours with an unsuccessful challenge of Ohio’s 20 electoral votes. The complaint, filed by former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and current Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, cited voter irregularities in the state but eventually was overruled.

Four years earlier, the disputed election between Mr. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore prompted a group of House Democrats to contest the certification of Mr. Bush’s win in the wake of Florida’s ballot issues. But no senator signed onto the objection, as rules require, and it went nowhere.

Events that year were particularly awkward as Mr. Gore presided over the joint session, during which California Rep. Maxine Waters said she did “not care that [the objection] is not signed by a member of the Senate.”

The Electoral College process is laid out in both Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment. There are 538 electors, one for each member of the 100-person Senate and the 435-person House, and three for the District.

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