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A British Politics Geek's Guide to Election Night 2012

Posted: 05/11/2012 17:01

Florida Election 2012

I shall not be attending an election night party. I've been invited to a couple. The University I work at is even opening their bar late - until 6am if they have to - to let students watch the results come in on the big screen. It's a great idea, one which I'm sure will be a lot of fun, but it's not for me. Here's why.

There are two types of people who watch US elections. Those who understand how the electoral college system works, and those who don't. Election night parties tend to have a preponderance of the latter.

Now, I like to think I'm a pretty helpful person. I enjoy the challenge of putting complex ideas in simple language - it's one of the reasons I got into journalism. That being said, the wonderful thing about journalism is that you only have to explain things once. I've got my electoral college schtick down to a solid two-and-a-half, maybe three minutes, which is fine once or twice, but in the aggregate at a party, that's a fair chunk of time. Time that I could be spending more productively. Perhaps on mockery of CNN’s ostentatious on screen graphics, or clicking refresh on FiveThirtyEight.

And that's not to mention only being able to watch one news channel at a time, which if you ask me is downright barbaric.

No, none of this is for me. You can keep your socialising and your cameraderie, your 'fun' and your shared experience. I'll be seeing the night through in a comfortable chair, in my smallish home office, lit only by the glow of two, maybe three MacBooks and an iPad. My only methods of communication with the outside world will be Twitter and HuffPost blog comments. And I cannot wait.

Join me, won't you?

Preparation is key

Election Night is not Oscar Night. Its not Eurovision. Its not an event where it's more enjoyable if you don't really pay attention. On top of the Presidential, there's 435 House and 33 Senate races, not to mention 11 gubernatorial elections all on the same night. You need to be on your game. That means you need to think carefully about supplies.

If the race is as close as everyone but Nate Silver thinks (or hopes) it will be, we're in for a long night. Too much booze early on and you'll never make it through to the acceptance speeches.

Instead, get into the spirit of things and see the evening through with an American classic: Mountain Dew. It's probably going to do less damage to your insides than a six pack of cheap lager, and it'll keep you sharp as a tack. If you've got a shop near you that sells American sweets, I'd heartily recommend investing in a case of Mountain Dew Throwbacks - made with real sugar, none of that corn syrup nonsense. And maybe some Swedish Fish, just because they're yum.

Change your clocks

Put all your clock back five hours to match EST. All the news networks are in New York and DC, and the first results to be announced will be east coast. Changing the clocks will save you constantly trying to work out what time things are going to happen. Be warned, this may lead to moderate to severe jetlag, but you booked Wednesday off work ages ago, right?

Here's a handy hour by hour rundown of when results are expected.

Three screens are better than one

If ever there was a time to have a night off your information diet, Tuesday night is that time. Watching one news channel at a time is a terrible waste of the human brain.

Dig out all your old laptops. Convince IT that you need to take one home from work for the night. And borrow your other half's iPad - they won't be using it. Let's face it they're probably at the party getting your best friend to explain to them how the electoral college works.

Cast your net wide

I usually stick to the cable networks on the night - Fox (Sky 509) and MSNBC (Not strictly available in the UK. Unless you look really hard.) to get a nice even spread of lies, bigotry and Chris Matthews shouting - and CNN (Freesat 207, Sky 506, Virgin 607) to see if a computer generated representation of voter turnout has finally become self aware and eaten Wolf Blitzer.

If you're looking for something a little more niche, there are a few options for you. Assuming they can keep the lights on for the whole night, Al Gore will be anchoring on Current TV. Alternatively, washed up lunatic-for-cash and former prime-time Fox nutcase Glenn Beck will be hosting coverage at The Blaze, which is currently predicting a Romney "landslide."

On top of that, it'll be Huff Post Live's first Presidential election night. One assumes they'll be looking to pull something more spectacular out of the bag than a Google Hangout and a rich Corinthian leather sofa.

The one channel you almost certainly shouldn't watch is BBC News. It'll just be a Dimbleby explaining how the electoral college works, over and over again.

No matter who wins on Tuesday night, between the above, and a well curated Twitter list, there's no excuse for waking up on Wednesday afternoon not knowing exactly how it happened.

Come on then nerds, how do you plan to see the new administration?

 

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