Fri, May 26, 2017 | updated 09:01 AM IST

U.S. Elections: You need a dummies' guide to figure out Tuesday

Updated: Nov 07, 2016 21:27 IST      
U.S. Elections: You need a dummies' guide to figure out Tuesday

By Smita Prakash

Washington D.C. Nov. 7 (ANI): It's not just 'He wins' or 'She wins'. It's complicated. Like a Facebook status. Pundits on TV are working round the clock with interactive maps trying to explain as succinctly as possible the crazy crazy electoral system of the world's oldest (modern) democracy.

For non-Americans it's like navigating a maze. When a stop sign at traffic intersections is so explicit - walk, stop, 20 seconds tick tock tick tock, why oh why is the process of electing the President of the country so complex? And when everyone knows it's fuzzy, why not change it?

Tuesday is Election Day but wait, nearly 40 percent of the population has already voted. Yes. Most of them voted during the week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gave the impression that there was something murky in Hillary's Clinton's emails.

Hey Putin, well played. Yes, apparently Russia had something to do with U.S. elections this time. The FBI cleared her yesterday, but well nearly half the voters had voted by then. But that's not final. People can actually head out and change their vote! Yes, like going to a department store and exchanging your skinny jeans for an easy fit one.

And it's not a holiday on Tuesday, so nearly 50 percent of voters who are eligible to vote just don't bother to turn up and vote. You have to register to vote and have some kind of an ID. A driver's license would do. But there are some who have fudged IDs. Voter fraud says the Republicans.

Elections are always held on November 8. Nobody thought of moving it to the weekend of the first week of the month to make it easier for people to head out to vote. Also it's perfectly legal for volunteers of political parties to drive voters to polling stations. It isn't seen as bribing or influencing voters.

The choice is limited. Not like us back home where we have at least a dozen parties to choose from. Back in the seventies and eighties in India there were many more. But the Election Commission took away all the fun. Now our choice is restricted to about a 20 in most states.

But here in the U.S., the most powerful country in the world, there are just two serious political parties and their nominees were picked after a diligent democratic process. No papa picking beta, or mamma picking beti/beta.

Also Americans don't really choose their President. It's an indirect system. An electoral college. Like we didn't elect Pratibha Patil or Neelam Sanjiva Reddy as President. But then on the other hand we didn't really elect Deve Gowda or Chandrashekar to be the Prime Minister either. But I digress. Back to the U.S. Presidential system of democracy. The Congress (not a party but their Parliament) has 538 seats. The winner needs to get 270 seats. Each state has seats or electors. If a candidate wins most votes in state A then he/she wins all seats or electors. Bigger the state more the electors.

Now the clincher, what if there is a tie, after all polls show that Hillary Clinton has just a one or two-point lead. In such a case the two houses (which is the Congress - I told you! Pay attention) get to vote. The House of Representatives will pick the President and the Senate will pick the Vice President. It has happened two times in history. And democratic traditions go back to 1760 in this country.

So on Tuesday, people will vote blue or red. The Democrats are colour coded blue and Republicans have Red. You can be certain Trump will be in a red tie and Clinton will have some blue on. By 8 p.m. Eastern Time (yes to complicate matters there are different time zones in this country) the results will be out. Mostly. If there is a tie, then either candidate could ask for a repoll and then a whole new process begins. It happened during the Gore-Bush election.

Trump has already said that the system is rigged and he may not accept the results if he loses. That has made many people nervous because the system of recount is complicated, like everything else. It would have to be done state by state or one or more states. Let's not even go there. (ANI)

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