Australia’s guide to the US election: everything you need to know

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Julian Assange recently did an interview and here is the link, something to think about anyway.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Australia’s guide to the US election: everything you need to know” was written by Kristina Keneally, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th November 2016 19.00 UTC

When will we know the result?

The US goes to the polls on Tuesday. Results will start to come in on Wednesday from about 11am AEDT (8am in Perth) when some states close their polling stations on the eastern seaboard of the US. Some states with clear majorities for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be called very quickly. Depending on how close it is and how certain key states fall, the final result could be known anywhere between 2pm AEDT and the early evening. Bear in mind that 4pm in Sydney is midnight in New York, so it is likely that Clinton and Trump will speak to supporters sometime late Wednesday afternoon AEDT.

We’ll be getting results from Michigan and Pennsylvania from around noon AEDT, though it may take a while to know who has won in either place. If Trump pulls off a surprise in Michigan, he will be in a strong position. The result in Pennsylvania will be a big indicator one way or the other, followed by Arizona, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

Many Trump-supporting states will call early. At about 3pm Clinton will win California – and, if she’s going to win the presidency, this could put her ahead on the day for the first time. We may well have a result by 4pm.

How does the US electoral college work?

What is the US electoral college?

First of all, it has nothing to do with schools or universities. It is not a building or a place, but rather a way of counting votes in the presidential election.

Each state is worth a certain number of electoral college votes. If a candidate wins a state, then that candidate wins all of that state’s electoral college votes.

The number of electoral college votes a state gets is based on its population size. A state gets a vote for each of its House of Representatives districts plus two votes for its two senators. The more people in a state, the more members of the House of Representatives it has and the more electoral college votes it has: California has 55 votes, North Carolina has 15, Nevada has six, Wyoming has three, and so on.

There are 538 electoral college votes in total. That means the first candidate to reach 270 electoral college votes wins the presidential election. There have been cases in which there is an electoral college tie: in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson finally emerged as president, and more recently, in the sitcom Veep. In 2016, a tie would likely look more like the latter than the former.

Is it possible to win the popular vote but not the electoral college vote?

Yes. Just as Labor under Kim Beazley won the popular vote in the 1998 Australian election but didn’t win a majority in the Australian parliament, a presidential candidate in the US can win the popular vote but fall short in the electoral college vote. This has happened four times in US history: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000, when George W Bush beat Al Gore in the electoral college despite losing the popular vote.

Can Trump really win?

Yes, he could win, though it isn’t looking likely. In the past week Clinton’s lead has narrowed, largely off the back of the FBI’s announcement that it was reopening an investigation into her email server. Some national polls have even showed Trump drawing even with her. But Clinton has consistently led in the electoral college, and many polls project her electoral college result at 270 or more. Most polls now project Trump at 200 to 215 electoral college votes, making his task of winning 270 more difficult.

What’s a blue state and what is a red state?

Since the 2000 election the US media have used the colours red and blue to depict how states are likely to vote. Democratic states are shown in blue. Republican states are shown in red. Frankly, it’s weird, because red is usually the colour of the left, and blue is traditionally the colour of the right.

If I look at one of those electoral college maps, it looks as though Trump is winning everywhere. There’s a sea of red. What’s going on here?

Trump is winning a lot of states but many of the states he is winning are not full of people. So they have small numbers of electoral college votes. By contrast, Clinton has a “firewall” of delegate-rich states, including California (55 votes), New York (29), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10) and Michigan (16).

What are swing states, and which ones are they?

Swing states are like Australia’s marginal seats – the ones on a knife edge that can swing between the two parties. Sometimes they are referred to as purple states (a mixture of red and blue). Swing states to watch in this election are Florida (29 votes), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Nevada (six), Iowa (six) and New Hampshire (four). Clinton only needs to win all the blue states plus one of these swing states to win the election, whereas Trump needs to win all the red states and all of these swing states to reach 270 votes.

How do Americans actually vote?

There is no consistent method of voting across the US, with each state running their elections. Polling hours will vary by city or county as well. Some states use paper ballots, as Australia does. Some use electronic voting, where it looks as though the voter is using an ATM. Three states – Colorado, Oregon and Washington – conduct voting by mail for everyone, though in Colorado voters also have the option of attending a polling place.)

Some states use punch card voting, where the voter uses an implement to punch a hole through the ballot paper, which is then read by a vote-tabulating device. (The first time I voted in a US election from Australia, the state of Illinois mailed me a punch ballot, a foam-backing pad and a metal spike so I could cast my vote.) This form of voting gave rise to the term a “hanging chad” in 2000, when Florida’s result was challenged on a number of bases including whether a vote was valid if the punch didn’t seem to go all the way through the paper.

Are Americans only voting for president?

No. Americans are voting for a wide range of measures and candidates:

• Local tax levies – for instance, should the county impose a tax to provide more funds to the local library?
• State laws, eg, should the state legalise marijuana?
• County officials such as coroners and dog catchers (seriously, yes).
• Judges (yes, they elect judges in America).
• Governors (12 states are voting for governors this year).
• State legislators (like voting for your state MP).
• All 435 members of the federal House of Representatives, elected every two years.
• 34 federal senators.

Imagine voting for your local council, state government, federal government and in several state and local plebiscites all at once: that’s the equivalent of what Americans are voting for tomorrow. It’s a democracy smorgasbord.

What’s the difference between Congress, Senate and the house?

The Congress is the general term for the entire legislature. The House of Representatives is like the lower house in Australia, and the Senate is like our Senate (in that it is an upper house: it may or may not have its own quirky individuals, à la Rod Culleton and Malcolm Roberts). The Republicans are likely to control the House of Representatives, mainly because the state legislatures get to draw their own boundaries and have ensured the districts are as friendly as possible to the Republican party.

The Democrats may well control the Senate. It is on a knife edge. If it is tied at 50-50, then the vice-president casts the deciding vote – meaning the presidential election and the Senate election are two to watch in tandem.

I’m so tired of hearing about Clinton’s emails. Just give me the potted history, quickly

When she was secretary of state (the US foreign minister), Clinton used a private email server to send and receive work emails, rather than use the Department of State’s secure email server.

Republicans have sought to assert she violated state department protocol as well as federal laws regarding record keeping. The FBI opened an investigation to determine if any of the information was classified. Some of it was. But the FBI determined in July that while Clinton was “extremely careless” it would not recommend charges against her.

Clinton’s email issues pale in comparison to George W. Bush, who ‘’lost” 22 million emails he kept as president on a private email server. But the controversy has dogged Clinton’s campaign, as it fed a perception that she was not an honest person.

Last week, 11 days from the election, the FBI announced it was reopening the Clinton email investigation based on newly discovered information, that is emails on another computer. Clinton’s lead – substantial at that point – took a blow. This week – 48 hours from election day – the FBI has announced that it reviewed these new emails and uncovered no new information, and thereby stands by its recommendation that Clinton should not be charged with any crime.

Clinton campaign ‘glad that FBI email investigation has been resolved’

What this means in terms of voting intentions is hard to say. But, should she win, at least Clinton won’t start her presidency with a FBI investigation into her emails still hanging over her head.

What are three facts I can wheel out impressively on Wednesday?

• Did you know Ohio is the Eden-Monaro of US politics? It is the ultimate bellwether state: it has voted with the US president in every election since 1964. This year Ohio’s population is older and whiter than previously and will probably vote for Trump. It is likely that for the first time in more than 50 years Ohio will go with the party that doesn’t win the presidency.

• Did you know that US territories get to vote in the primaries but not the general election? That’s right, people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands get to vote for who should be the candidate but they get no say on who wins the election.

• When does the winner become president? Unlike Australia, the winner does not take office as soon as possible after the election. Barack Obama will remain president until inauguration day on 20 January 2017.

Kristina Keneally will be part of the Sky News presenting team in Australia on election day

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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