ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Tradition trumped suspense Monday as members of the Electoral College cast the official, final votes in an exhausting 2012 presidential election, a constitutional formality on President Barack Obama's march to a second term.
The rite playing in state capitols involved party luminaries and tireless activists carrying out the will of each state's voters. The popular vote from state-to-state dictates whether Democratic or Republican electors get the honor, but the outcome is not in doubt.
Obama is on course to get 332 votes to Romney's 206, barring defectors.
In New Hampshire, electors supporting Obama signed their four ballots and sealed the envelopes with wax that has been in the secretary of state's office for more than 70 years.
"It's been a long haul for all of us," said state Secretary of State Bill Gardner, alluding to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary that sparked intense campaigning there for more than a year.
In Mississippi, which Republican Mitt Romney carried comfortably, six men chosen earlier as electors met in a small committee room in the state Capitol and cast their votes for Romney. Well aware they were doing so in a lost cause, they opted for humor. The state's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, joked that Billy Mounger, an 86-year-old elector, probably wished to vote for Calvin Coolidge, a renowned small-government conservative president in the 1920s.
"I'd like to have Coolidge back," said Mounger, a wealthy Jackson businessman.
The ballots are on their way to Washington, where Congress will officially count them on Jan. 6.
The 12th Amendment directs the electors chosen by the states to meet and vote for president and vice president. Each state gets its equivalent in the 435-member House and the 100-member Senate. The District of Columbia gets the other three electors.
With the Electoral College in focus, advocates for revamping the current system seized on the chance to argue for a change guaranteeing the national popular vote winner is elected president. The compact among states would award future electoral votes to the national vote leader regardless of how candidates perform in a particular state. The shift has been approved in nine places and is pending in many others, but it won't take effect unless states possessing a majority of electoral votes ratify it.
Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Republican, said an increasingly shrinking electoral college map has lavished candidate attention on a select few states while most are mere spectators.
"The rest of the country gets hosed," he said, adding, "The most important principle here is the candidate who gets the most votes should win and every vote should be equal."
Contributing to this reporter were Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H.; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Miss.