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People in Cleveland sit watching the first debate between President Trump and Joe Biden. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

We all need to be clear-eyed about the social and political volatility heading into Election Day: The chances of sporadic violence, significant unrest or voting issues are quite high, according to basically every federal and state official monitoring voting and its aftermath in 2020.

But all of us — Democrats, Republicans, independents alike — can do our part to minimize the drama and darker scenarios.

1. Vote and then chill until late Tuesday night. There'll be dumb rumors, wild speculation and armchair projections, all of it meaningless.

  • There's no chance you have even a clue who wins until Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are counted and reported.
  • More likely, you will need to wait for clear-cut results in Pennsylvania, where it will take days to count all mail-in votes.

2. Don't expect a quick, clear winner: We can't stress enough the chance of it taking days to fully count mail-in and absentee votes, to determine the real outcome in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

  • Be patient: COVID and the mail-in torrent make this election unlike any other.

3. Brace for the possibility of a "Red Mirage." We first told you about this term, coined by the Democratic data firm Hawkfish, on "Axios on HBO" before Labor Day:

  • Because polling and modeling shows Republicans are more likely to vote in person and Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, early counts could look heavier for the GOP than the final result, when absentee votes are all counted.
  • So the trends could look more Trump-friendly than the final outcome. This is not a partisan belief; it's a simple fact. (See the full "Red Mirage" segment.)

4. Don’t share social-media posts that aren't from a source you trust and know well. Period. Too many people share too much garbage too often. 

  • Only pay attention to sources of information you trust and can validate with 100% certainty. Measure twice, tweet once (or, better yet, never).

5. Don’t overreact. You might see images on cable or social media of protests, or what seem like massive voter intimidation or issues. This can often seem bigger or more widespread than it is.

  • Top officials tell us they fear Russia or other actors plan to amplify even the smallest issues to sow chaos. So don't assume the worst.

6. Expect that President Trump may refuse to accept results, if he loses.

  • Why? Because he has told us he will fight the voting rules and results all the way to the Supreme Court. Watch his actions more than his words.
  • Here's a small sign of what may lie ahead: As reported by the N.Y. Times, the Trump campaign — citing the possibility that "multiple states will require recounts" — is raising money to continue ballot fights into mid-December:
Screenshot via WinRed

7. Don’t hyperventilate about court cases. There will probably be many. But wait until there are actual verdicts and appeals to appraise the significance.

8. Brace yourself for 78 days of drama and turmoil from Nov. 4 through the inauguration.

  • No one working for Trump or Joe Biden thinks the post-election period will be remotely normal. Even if you get the result you want, anticipate months of wild maneuvering and protests.
  • Here, too, keep it in perspective and don’t make matters worse by sharing or overreacting to false or misleading reports. 

What's next: The nation is headed into a firestorm. There's no way it's orderly or normal, or even necessarily over when it seems over. 

  • All we can do is be smart about what’s to come, and wise in our responses. 

Go deeper

Updated Nov 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Wisconsin, Arizona certify Biden's victories

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona and Wisconsin officials confirmed the presidential election results in their states, formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victories in the key battlegrounds.

Why it matters: The moves deal yet another blow to President Trump's efforts to block or delay certification in key swing states that he lost. 

20 mins ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.

Trump's 2024 begins

Trump speaking to reporters in the White House on Thanksgiving. Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is likely to announce he'll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals. 

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