It really is official now -- Barack Obama has locked up Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes.

The state's Electoral College met for the 56th time Monday to cast their ballots for president and vice president, and there were no surprises. All 21 electors, a mix of Democratic loyalists and early Obama supporters, cast their votes for Obama and Joe Biden.

But it was a necessary formality, because the 3.2 million Pennsylvanians who voted for Obama on Nov. 4 in fact voted for a slate of electors required under the U.S. Constitution.

The electors, who were named by the Obama campaign, included York Mayor John Brenner, former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris, Auditor General Jack Wagner and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

"It's really great to be part of history," said Brenner, one of Obama's early primary backers.

That's not to say everyone liked the notion of choosing a president through the Electoral College, which has turned controversial since Al Gore lost the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 despite receiving 500,000 more popular votes.

Asked for his opinion of the Electoral College, Brenner put it this way: "I think it should be a formality, and the popular vote of the people should be what counts."

The electors met at noon in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives in a 90-minute ceremony that was dominated by pomp and completely void of political intrigue.


Advertisement

With television cameras from C-Span and the Pennsylvania Cable Network rolling, the electors cast their ballots under the same procedures as the first Electoral College in 1787.

They entertained rounds of resolutions to elect a president, vice president, secretary and parliamentarian, all without dissent. State AFL-CIO president Bill George was named president of the college and seemed downright giddy when he took to the podium and said, "At times, I just want to cry and yell out."

There were rounds of speeches, including one from Gov. Ed Rendell, who lauded the strong turnout in this year's election and said, "the American Democracy is in great shape."

There were some diversions from the script. After Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney was named one of three tellers charged with counting the paper ballots, George looked his way and congratulated him on a hard-fought win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

In one resolution, Brenner was put in charge of settling all of the expenses of the electors.

They are entitled to a mileage reimbursement, but Brenner said the electors had little interest in collecting it. And they are each entitled to a per diem of $3, apparently an age-old figure.

"I don't know if it goes back the full 200-plus years, but I'm sure it's been in place a long time," Brenner said.

ABOUT THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

  • Required under Article II, Section I of U.S. Constitution

  • Pennsylvania has 21 electors, for its 19 seats in the U.S. House and two in Senate

  • Electors are named by the campaign

  • Pennsylvania still uses balloting procedures set in first meeting in 1787

  • Congress will certify results from all 50 states on Jan. 6

  • For more information, visit the Department of State Web site at www.dos.state.pa.us and select Electoral College under "Look What's Hot"