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HindustanTimes Sat,29 Nov 2014
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri: Electoral Esperanto
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times
November 07, 2012
First Published: 00:57 IST(7/11/2012)
Last Updated: 02:54 IST(7/11/2012)

I joked on my Facebook that I've been asked incessantly to explain the electoral college, the indirect method by which US presidents are selected. How do I know it's election time? Because I get phone calls asking to explain that system thing again.

The electoral college is actually quite simple in concept. And it provides advantages to candidates who spread their vote geographically rather than in a few concentrated regions. And it boosts the political influence of small states.

But the idea of a candidate being president without the popular vote does rankle.

Another baffling aspect are the electors. These 538 men and women make this momentous decision, but who are they? The answer is that they are a ragtag army elected by the voters in each state at the time of the main ballot.

It is a statement on how differently Indian views of the State than most Ameicans. The US Constitution insists an elector being non-official, outside the government. In India, of course,  the clamour is always for the central government to be involved and its officials to handle stuff.



Curse of The Antipodal Election



There are few parts of the world more ill-suited to monitor the unfolding of a US election than India. It is on the other side of the world, which means exit polls will start to dribble out at some ungodly time in the morning. Anyone who holds a US election party here will have to party sans any election results. Except if they party til sunrise.

On the other hand this quirk of geography that puts the world's two largest democraces on opposite sides of the world is the basis for India's call centre industry. Just to realise how this works -- Ohio's antipode is in the Indian Ocean, somewhere between Australia and Sri Lanka.

And on top of that, this relatively exciting election has had a restraining order placed on exit polls by the Federal Election Commission. Fallout of the Florida chad crisis. But suspect as there is little evidence that exit polls effect those who have yet to vote. Look at poor Hawaii where votes are cast with enthusiasm despite the fact a new president has been declared an hour or two before.


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