US Election simplified.

I am a bit of a political animal – and have spent many early mornings and late nights watching the result of US Elections.

Its a pretty complicated system, unlike ours in many respects… and I was having a conversation about how hard it is to understand how it works.  So in the interest of community service, here is how it works.


Firstly, voting is non compulsory in America and thats why there is a massive amount of energy and money expended in these elections – to get people to vote a particular way. In recent years (and forgetting mid term elections), about 60% of the population are bothered enough to vote. Both sides of politics work hard to attract voters to their cause.

Hilary Clinton is a Democrat – a centrist left party,  founded in 1828 and along with Barack Obama, it has boasted Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Bains Johnson, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson – and many more right the way back to Andrew Jackson.

Donald Trump, who has never held public office, is a Republican which is often referred to as the GOP – the Grand Old Party.  Oddly enough, although nothing in the US surprises us, the Grand Old Party was first used in the Pennsylvania Agitator to describe the Democratic party in 1856 – not long before the US Civil War.

But I digress – I was supposed to be making it simpler. Sorry.


Rather than voting directly for a Presidential nominee, electors vote for representatives in their state’s electoral college – its not a real college but a term used to describe the voting groups.  They are usually loyal to a party, and each state’s ‘college’ then award their college votes to one or another of the nominees.

 The number of electoral college votes is determined by the number of people in congress in that state, and those numbers are based on the states population. Are you still with me? Good. 

Many of the states are already kind of locked in – some states traditionally vote red (Republican) or blue (Democrat). So when Americans go to vote on Tuesday, they will vote for a group of electors to make their decision.  One nominee for President has to get 270 of the 538 available electoral college votes to be inaugurated as President.

There was a tie once, and there is an interesting situation at play in this 2016 election. There is a third nominee – Evan McMullin from Utah, a mormon businessman (Utah has a huge population of Mormons) and a former CIA operative.  He is leading both Clinton and Trump in that state. If neither Trump or Clinton can get enough college electoral votes (less than 270), then the top 3 candidates are required to go to Congress (the kind of equivalent of the House of Reps here) to ask the states to vote for them.

Each state has one vote in this situation – and Evan McMullin could potentially become the 45th President of the United States. If he can gather enough support from some of the other swing states who don’t want either Clinton or Trump as President, he could earn enough votes to win.  This could be a bit of a Stephen Bradbury moment (remember the Aussie speed skater who won gold at the Winter Olympics by coming from last?)

The Republicans have won Utah since 1964 – so if McMullin wins in Utah, the 6 electoral college votes they have won’t count for either Trump or Clinton – and could very well provide one of the most fascinating outcomes in a US election in many years.

So in short – one candidate must win 270 votes  The first to do so will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the US.

If neither candidate makes it to 270, then Utah comes in to play.

If congress decides they don’t want either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, then the Utah independent could become President.

My prediction – Hilary Clinton will make the 270 vote quota and win with a narrow margin and Utah wont come in to play.


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