Under Rule II of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a certificate of election must be signed by a state’s governor and secretary of state, and presented to the Secretary of the Senate before a newly-elected senator can be sworn in. A spokeswoman in the Senate secretary’s office said that was indeed standard procedure and could not think of an instance where that rule was not followed.

According to McNiff, that document won’t be issued from Galvin’s office for weeks. Cities and towns must by law wait 10 days for overseas and military absentee ballots to come in. They then have 50 days from the date of the election to certify their results and submit them to the secretary of the commonwealth. Once received, the Governor’s Council certifies the outcome and issues a certificate. That timetable could stretch as late as March, though McNiff said it should take less time since the Senate race is the only contest on the ballot next week.

In the event of a Brown victory, Republicans in the state are worried the certification process could be delayed for the benefit of Democrats’ health reform bill. One Massachusetts Republican operative not affiliated with any campaign in the race went so far as to claim Galvin sees his own interests in play, and that prolonging the certification would make him a hero to his party and enhance his stature for future statewide bids. A Brown campaign spokesman was equally cynical.