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    How The American Election Works, Explained For British People

    It'll be okay. It'll all be okay.

    Woooo! Yeah! It's finally time! The churning hellscape of 2016 is about to reach its terrifying climax, as America actually has its election. WHO'S EXCITED?

    But the election can be very confusing for British people. What's actually going to happen? When is it going to happen? Could Donald Trump actually become president?

    It's okay. We can get through this nightmare together! Grab your favourite crying pillow and we'll try to explain.

    If you're planning to stay awake feeling anxious and slightly sick until the results are in, you'll probably need to stay up until about 5am. (And possibly not sleep until December, if something goes wrong.)

    Midnight UK time is when the polls close in the first bunch of really important states. But when we'll actually know the results from them depends on how close it is...

    But unless the election is ridiculously close, we should know who's won somewhere between 4am and 5am. Here's a helpful map of when every state got "called" in the last election – add five hours to each of these times for when they'll happen in the UK.

    A cool map that shows when every state was called by @AP in 2012 election Hat tip @eliseviebeck

    The reason for all this confusion is that the winner of the presidential election isn’t necessarily the person who gets the most votes. Hahahaha, no, that would be too simple!

    Just ask poor sad Al Gore, who got more votes than George W. Bush in 2000, but still lost the election.

    Instead of just counting up all the 120million (ish) votes in the country and finding out who got the most, the USA has a system called the “electoral college”.

    What happens is five hundred and thirty eight people representing all the states get together and vote for who should be president, then write the result down on fancy paper.

    Each state is worth a different number of electoral college votes, depending on how big it is. So for example California (which has a population of around 39 million) gets 55 electoral college votes.

    Meanwhile Wyoming (population: 7 people and a bear) gets just three.

    And the candidate who wins a state gets to claim all of that state’s electoral votes.

    (Except, obviously, it’s not that simple, because LOL it is never that simple. No, Maine and Nebraska decided they have to be weird and different, so instead they split their vote into chunks.)

    That means in order to be become president, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will need to win a majority of the electoral college – which is 270 votes.

    So what might actually happen in this election – bearing in mind that it is 2016, and therefore whatever happens will almost certainly be more weird and horrifying than we could possibly have imagined?

    Well, lots of states are “safe states”. That means that, unless something completely ridiculous happens, their votes are predictable and boring and pretty much stay the same.

    And, importantly, these safe states get Clinton much closer to victory than Trump.

    That leaves the “swing states” – the ones where the result is likely to be close. These are the places that decide the election, so if you’re looking for someone to blame, they're pretty much your huckleberry.

    And if (and only if) it’s going to be a really close election, Trump will probably win quite a lot of these states.

    So which states should you look out for? Well, some of the less-swingy swing states are Wisconsin and Michigan (which lean towards Clinton) and Arizona, Alaska, and Georgia (which lean towards Trump).

    Now, what about our old friends Ohio and Florida? They're basically the swingiest of the swing states and always decide elections, right?

    Also keep an eye on North Carolina, Nevada and Iowa.

    But if you want to know how the election's going, the three most telling states might be New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

    But if she loses in any of those three, that could be a sign that everything's going a bit Trump.

    And that's how the American election works. Have fun!