The U.S. Congress has formally declared Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate met in a joint session to confirm the result of November's national election.
Under U.S. law, Congress must formally count the electoral votes from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to certify the presidential and vice presidential winners.
On election day, U.S. voters actually cast their ballots for the electors of their favorite presidential candidate. Each state is entitled to a number of electors equal to its total number of Representatives and Senators in Congress.
In the November election, Barack Obama won 365 electoral votes, while his Republican rival Senator John McCain received 173.
Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role under the Constitution as President of the Senate began the process.
"Persuant to the Constitution and laws of the United States, the Senate and the House of Representatives are meeting in joint session to verify the certificates and count the votes of the electors of the several states for President and Vice President of the United States," said Cheney.
Standing beside Cheney was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Four members of Congress selected earlier came to the rostrum to read each state's electoral certificate for the Democratic and Republican presidential tickets.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer read the tally from Colorado, a key Western state won by Barack Obama, while Republican Congressman Dan Lundgren read the result from South Carolina, won by John McCain.
"Mr. President. The certificate of the electoral vote of the state of Colorado seems to be regular in form and authentic and it appears therefrom that Barack Obama of the state of Illinois received nine votes for president and Joseph Biden of the state of Delaware received nine votes for vice president," Schumer said.
"Mr. President. The certificate of the electoral vote of the state of South Carolina seems to be regular in form and authentic, and it appears therefrom that John McCain of the state of Arizona received eight votes for president and Sarah Palin of the state of Alaska received eight votes for vice president," said Lundgren.
It was again Vice President Cheney who announced the final results as House and Senate lawmakers stood and applauded.
"The state of the vote for President of the United States as delivered to the president of the Senate is as follows. The whole number of electors appointed to vote for president of the United States is 538 of which a majority is 270. Barack Obama of the state of Illinois has received for President of the United States, 365 votes. John McCain of the state of Arizona has received 173 votes," he said.
Electoral results from a presidential election are also sent to the U.S. National Archives and recorded in the official journals of the House and Senate.
The ceremony occurred less than two weeks before Barack Obama takes the oath of office as president on January 20 on the steps of the West front of the U.S. Capitol.
Extraordinary security and logistical precautions will be in place for the inauguration, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands if not a million or more people to the national mall in Washington, D.C.