Why We Wait 77 Days for Obama's Inauguration

In what many felt was one of the most divisive elections ever (it wasn't) history was, as every news person and network said over and over, made. Now we wait 77 days before Barack Obama takes the helm.

Why? The electoral college process.

George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. Back then, a few months were allowed to give electors from each state time to cast their ballots. The inauguration date was changed to Jan. 20 in 1937, when Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in for his second term.

Even today, a complex process leads to the electoral college votes being counted Jan. 6. And things are not always decided on election night. You'll recall in 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the controversial election by a narrow electoral college margin (271 to 266, where 270 are needed to win). The election was undecided until mid-December when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, barred recounting ballots in certain Florida counties, assuring all of the state's 25 electoral votes went to Bush.

A Constitutional amendment would be needed to change the system.

Meanwhile, work begins. As Bloomberg news reports, Congress returns in less than two weeks with plans to pass another economic stimulus bill, Obama is likely to begin inheriting the economic mess then, if not sooner, by driving his agenda.

There's also pressure to get a Cabinet together, and analysts speculate that announcements could come within days.

"With two wars abroad and an international financial crisis going on, there cannot be a period in which the new administration is just getting up to speed," said William Galston, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a professor at the University of Maryland.

This article is from the Live Science Water Cooler: What people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.

Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.