It’s Election Day. Some practical tips on surviving, from a former political staffer

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It’s finally here — Election Day.

After 655 days of the Trump Presidency, voters are taking to the polls once more, ready to have a say in the social, economic and ideological future of our nation.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably debating on whether to spend the day by:

A) Keeping your eyes glued to the TV from the minute the polls open in New Hampshire, to when they close in Hawaii,

B) Saying an affirmation for your candidates of choice (and then stress eating or drinking… or both?)

C) Assuring everyone at work you’re fine, but running off to the bathroom every ten minutes to check Twitter, or

D) All of the above.

I’m solidly in category D, of course.

I can pretty much guarantee that as you’re reading this, I’m probably on my third cup of coffee and inhaling a fritter, as the TV plays in the background and I frantically refresh Twitter for breaking news. Because there’s nothing like a stressful campaign season to bring out dormant multi-tasking skills, right?

But in all seriousness: as a veteran of more than a few political campaigns, let me affirm that there are better ways to spend the day, and in a way that will make a difference.

The best and most concrete thing you can do today, is of course, to vote.

Whether you’re standing in line to cast your vote or swinging by your local polling station to drop off your absentee ballot, just make sure you vote from the top to the bottom of your ballot. More often than not, the margins for less visible races — e.g. propositions; local elections — can be decided by small margins of a few hundred votes.

If possible, considering bringing a friend, colleague or neighbor to the polls with you. Or, offer to drop off their ballots for them.

In any given election year, it’s already hard for would-be voters to ask for help. Our country (regrettably) tends to approach elections in a way that often makes potential voters think they should inherently knowhow elections work, while they also somehow become subject-matter experts on candidates and measures. This has only increased in our current contentious political environment.

I regularly receive private messages from first-time voters, saying they’re too embarrassed to publicly ask for help, since they don’t want to be shamed for “not knowing the obvious.” If you take the time to reach out now and help those would-be voters get started, I can almost guarantee — they’ll pay it forward.

If you’re feeling very ambitious or simply want to be in the thick of the action, consider swinging by the local office of your candidate of choice, and asking how you can help.

Election Day is all about focusing on turnout, so you can do anything from calling voters and reminding them to get to the polls, to knocking on doors and dropping off door hangers, with stickers reminding voters where to vote.

Bonus? You’ll have a new crowd of built-in colleagues and friends to watch returns with, hopefully as you get ready to celebrate a campaign victory.

Finally: there are a number of incredibly tight races across the nation, so don’t be surprised if results for several key races aren’t called immediately. This is a perfectly normal reality of campaign life, and these campaigns have the resources and consultants to know how to handle the (likely) recount process.

The best thing you can do? Send the campaign support and ask them how you can help.

There is plenty at stake for this election day. But take the time to do these steps, and you can make it count.

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