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Obama's Presidential Election Victory Almost Official

Members of New York's Electoral College meet in the New York state Senate Chamber to elect President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, in Albany, N.Y., December 17, 2012.
It has been more than a month since Americans went to the polls choosing President Barack Obama to serve a second term in office. But on Monday a select group of voters met across the country to help make the result official.

It is a tradition that goes back to the beginning of the U.S. republic and the first presidential election in 1789.

The Electoral College

  • Established in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress and a popular vote of qualified citizens.
  • Consists of 538 electors, 270 electoral votes are required to be president.
  • Each state is allotted the number of electors determined by the Constitution.
  • When people vote in the election they are voting for their candidate’s electors in their state.
  • Most states have a winner-take-all system for electors.
  • The electors meet in their states on December 17, 2012 to vote for president and vice president.
  • Those votes are counted in Congress on January 6.
Unlike many elections, the presidential election is not determined directly by the popular vote. Instead, voters in each state vote for electors. These electors meet in the various state capitals several weeks after the presidential-election popular vote and officially cast their ballots for president, as required by the U.S. Constitution.

Obama won the election, defeating Republican Mitt Romney on November 6. Obama won 332 electoral votes, while Romney won 206.

In all but two states, the winner of the popular vote is awarded all of that state's electoral votes. The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which award electoral votes both statewide and by congressional district.

The electoral vote count in the various state capitals is largely ceremonial in nature and there is little suspense about the outcome.

The results from the Electoral College voting will be reported to the new Congress in early January prior to Obama taking the oath of office.