The non Americans' guide to US elections (Handy for citizens, too)
Updated 7:07 PM ET, Sun November 6, 2016
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(CNN)The US presidential election. It's exhilarating, it's exhausting, but it's also inexplicably complicated -- even for us natives. Here's everything you need to know to become an insta-pundit.
When's the election?
Why is the turnout so pathetic?
Why is the election on a work day?
Why is the election season so darned long?
Can anybody run for president?
Why is it that the greatest country in the world only has two parties?
Is it true Americans don't directly vote for President?
- The Electoral College is a group of people appointed by each party
- The total number of electors is equal to the number of members in Congress: 538
- Each state gets electors based on its population. So, Wyoming has 3; New York has 29
- So, if Candidate A wins the most votes in, say, New York, (s)he gets all 29 electoral votes.
- The goal is to get to 270, which is just over half of 538.
Has anyone ever lost the popular vote and still become president?
538 is an even number. What if there's a tie?
What are battleground states?
Why are Democratic states 'blue' and Republican states 'red'?
What are the biggest issues?
- Trump: His is an America-first strategy. He's suggested not coming to the aid of some countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and said he would work with challenging world leaders.
- Clinton: She wants to use diplomacy and development to quell problems abroad, stand by US allies, and stand her ground with rivals such as Russia and China.
- Trump: He's said the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal for America. He's also said he'd renegotiate or end the North American Free Trade Agreement and label China a currency manipulator.
- Clinton: She used to call TPP the "gold standard" of trade agreements ... until it wasn't politically expedient anymore.
- Trump: He called global warming "a hoax." He has told coal miners he'd save their jobs by reversing President Barack Obama's executive actions and dramatically cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Clinton: She wants to combat climate change and boost renewable energies, cut waste and reduce the United States' dependency on oil.
What else are Americans voting on?
When will we know the results?
Can you really rig an election?
- Vote more than once? That small army of poll workers and poll watchers (not to mention the lawyers) at each precinct can easily put a stop to that.
- Vote as someone else? See above.
- Screw around with the voting machines? Sure, but first you have to figure out how to break the locks and seals that are placed on each voting machine. And did we mention each machine sits out in the open all Election Day long?
- Hack the machines? Yeah, good luck. The election system is decentralized by design, with state, county and local governments all managing voting. Even though many precincts use voting machines, none are connected to the Internet, nor are they connected to each other.
Can anyone contest the result?
When would the winner take office?
Just how unprecedented is this election ?
- For the first time, you have a woman a step away from being president. That alone makes this campaign unique. And yet you don't hear much buzz about it, probably because Clinton herself rarely mentions it. Older female voters seem geeked up by the possibility of having a Madame President, but female millennial voters are surprisingly blah about it. Probably because they already feel like they'll see a female president in their lifetimes They're just not sure if they want this female to be the first.
- For the first time, you have a true outsider-businessman who really could shake up business as usual in Washington. Change is the big call this election, and nobody represents that more than The Donald. He's the ultimate Washington outsider -- he was the host of "The Apprentice" for goodness sake -- who doesn't give a damn about political tradition.
- For the first time, you have a major party nominee who, until this weekend, was under FBI investigation. Clinton's email problems were kind of fading into the background, then came roaring back.
- For the first time, you have a man seeking office who bragged about wanting to sexually assault women. That "Access Hollywood" video of Trump would have been the death knell for any other candidate. But Trump is, well, Trump, and he says and gets away with things other politicians can only dream about.
- For the first time, you have two of the most despised, hated and untrusted candidates. If they were running against any other run-of-mill presidential candidate, they'd be toast.