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Congress meets to count electoral votes

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[January 08, 2009]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House and Senate are coming together in a centuries-old tradition to count the electoral votes from the November election and formally declare that Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States.

Vice President Dick Cheney will take a seat next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to preside over the joint session of Congress on Thursday. In what could be his last act as president of the Senate, Cheney was to hand the certificates from each state's electors to the tellers -- two members each from the House and the Senate -- to be read off and tallied.

CivicAt the conclusion of the state-by-state rundown, Cheney was to read the tally sheet and announce the results -- that Obama has been elected president and Joe Biden will succeed Cheney as vice president.

The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, directs the electors chosen by the states to meet and vote for president and vice president, conveying the results to the president of the Senate.

That was accomplished Dec. 15, when the electors, in a largely ceremonial rite preordained by Obama's Nov. 4 victory over John McCain, gathered in state capitals to cast their votes. The tally was 365 for Obama, 173 for McCain.

The electoral college is made up of 538 electors, with each state getting its equivalent in the 435-member House and the 100-member Senate. The District of Columbia gets the other three electors.

The session this year should be drama-free, unlike in 2001, when then-Vice President Al Gore presided over the session that declared George W. Bush the winner over Gore in a disputed election. Gore disallowed objections from fellow Democrats who asserted that Bush had unfairly won Florida and tried to block Florida's electoral votes from being counted.

[Associated Press; By JIM ABRAMS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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