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Pace Yourself, Its Gonna Be a Long Week

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We told you not to expect results on election night, so please do not panic. A lot of things could happen today, and chances are, no matter what happens by tonight, the rest of the week is going to be pretty hectic on the national news front.

Mail-in ballots are still being counted

As the President is pretending not to understand, voting has stopped but counting is still occurring. In previous elections, mail-in ballots have been a small percentage of total votes, and so the winner can usually be determined from the votes that have been counted as of Tuesday night.

But mail-in and absentee votes are a huge proportion of this year’s election. And we shouldn’t be surprised if they skew blue: if people are concerned about the pandemic, they’re both more likely to chose mail-in and they’re more likely to vote for candidates who promise to take the pandemic seriously—which mostly means voting Democrat.

The machines can only scan so fast

In some states, including my home state and prime battleground Pennsylvania, mail-in votes could not be counted until election day. Counties asked for the state to pass legislation that would allow them to start counting earlier, but Republicans in the state legislature refused to do so unless they could include additional provisions like outlawing drop boxes.

Pennsylvania is not a state that normally counts this many mail-in ballots. Unlike many other states, we don’t have early voting and until this year, you couldn’t vote by mail unless you met one of a few requirements, like living in another state. The state doesn’t have the equipment, people, or procedures necessary to count a ton of ballots by election night, or even shortly thereafter. Then there are little things, like the creases in the ballots being more likely to jam the machines compared to last year.

Where to stay up to date

If you want to follow vote counting, the New York Times has a rundown of what we know of the seven states that are most likely to decide the election. How many votes are counted, which direction the yet-counted votes are likely to lean, and when we can expect to learn more. Currently, here’s what they’re saying about when votes will be counted:

  • Wisconsin: not specified, but only “a scattering of precincts” remain.
  • Nevada: won’t be providing any more updates until noon on Thursday.
  • Arizona: counting should finish by “late Wednesday.
  • Michigan: a “clear picture” of results is expected by Wednesday night.
  • Pennsylvania: the “overwhelming majority” of votes should be counted by Friday.
  • Georgia: expects to have results sometime Wednesday.
  • North Carolina: unclear, but half a million ballots were still unreturned as of Election Day. They will be accepted through November 12.

If you’re interested in following a specific state, look for local news organizations who are reporting closely on the counting process, like Pennsylvania outlet Public Source.

Expect legal challenges

Don’t expect this to be over when the votes are counted. A number of court challenges are already in motion, some from before the election and some filed just yesterday—like this one in Pennsylvania seeking to reinterpret the rules on provisional ballots.

The Wall Street Journal has a list of pending and recent legal challenges. Don’t be surprised if there are more in the coming days.

The pandemic is getting worse, by the way

Don’t forget to save a little bit of panic for COVID-19. Several European countries are going into their second lockdowns, and U.S. hospitalizations are surging. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will get worse (again) before they get better, so don’t let your guard down when it comes to safety measures. News items about school closures and shortages of hospital resources are likely to pop up amidst the election coverage.

What to do about…all of this

First, manage expectations. Just as you shouldn’t have pinned your hopes on a Tuesday night result, you currently shouldn’t pin them on a Wednesday night one either. Things could still be in flux by the end of the week. Take the anxiety of uncertainty a day at a time, with an understanding that there won’t be a specific moment that you can feel relief or closure. I know, it’s tough. But that’s the position you’re in.

If you want to keep an eye on results without obsessing, try the Guardian’s low-stress app, and don’t subject yourself to any more cable news shows or Twitter doomscrolling than you have to. Expect that others will be having emotional reactions there: celebrating, mourning, raging even though the election is not yet decided.

Anytime you’re dealing with a lot of stress, or having symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself if you might benefit from professional help. We have a guide to finding the right therapist for you, and a rundown of resources for mental health help when you can’t afford traditional therapy. These range from hotlines to community-based support groups to places that offer therapy for free or on a sliding scale. We’ve also found the app Woebot to be helpful at providing coping strategies, although it’s no substitute for a human therapist.

Beyond that: find things that bring you comfort. Social support is important to mental health, even if the pandemic is keeping you apart from some of your loved ones. Exercise is good at relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. And don’t forget that distractions, including gibberish songs and soothing river tours, can help you to keep your mind off pointless worry.

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