Senate to Make Obama's Reelection Official

Americans thought they elected a president on Nov. 6, 2012, but those results were not official - until today.

The votes cast in November's general election went to pick electors from each state - members of the Electoral College - who cast their ballots based on the preferences of their constituency for one candidate or another. Today Vice President Biden was to announce the results.

The Electoral College met and cast its ballots on December 17. Now it's time officially to count them.

In a ceremony that starts today at 1 p.m. in the House Chamber, tradition dictates Senate pages carry boxes with votes from the states into the Senate, where they're then passed from hand to hand. The Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, presents the votes to the secretary of the Senate, Nancy Erickson, who passes the results to House Parliamentarian Thomas J. Wickham Jr., who hands them to Vice President Biden. All members of Congress - both from the House of Representatives and the Senate - are expected be present for the ceremony.

Biden will give the results to tellers, who verify their authenticity and record each vote.

At the end of it all, Biden will read the results and have them recorded for posterity. Most likely the vice president will tell us what we already know - that he and Obama have been reelected.

The only possible disruption to this process would be if both a House or Senate member submitted a challenge to a state's vote tally in writing. That would trigger each chamber to consider and vote on the objection.

ABC's Matthew Dowd pointed out during the 2012 campaign that the Electoral College could come up with a different winner than the one from popular vote - as it did in the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

But in their last meeting, the Electoral College offered no surprises, reelecting President Obama. Seventeen days before his second inaugural ceremony, that result will become official this afternoon.

UPDATE: ABC's John Parkinson reports Vice President Joe Biden declared that President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney 332-206 after the electoral ballots were counted in the House chamber this afternoon.

"This announcement of the state of the vote by the president of the Senate shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president of the United States each for the term beginning on the 20th day of January 2013 and shall be entered together with a list of votes in the journal of the Senate and the House of Representatives," Biden announced at 1:28 p.m.