You are not alone if you are in high-stress mode. That is the default setting for anyone who cares about politics, including the vast majority of Post readers. The outcome of a critical election — coupled with uncertainty in battleground states and memories of election night in 2016, which was frankly traumatic for many people — is going to make for some difficult hours and days. So here are some pointers that might help with the anxiety.

First, stop looking at polls and predictions. From a statistical standpoint, many states are within the margin of error, so they often don’t tell you much. (Remember, a race polling at 52 percent for the Democrat and 48 percent for the Republican with a margin of error of three percentage points could have results ranging from a 10-point Democratic win to a two-point Republican win. Margins of error work both ways for both sides.) And really do not look to exit polls, which promise to be more iffy than ever given the number of early voters.

Second, remember that about 100 million Americans voted early with essentially no problems. There are some stray lawsuits, but votes have been cast and received. In states that allow ballots to be counted if they are cast before polls close but arrive after Election Day, that number will likely go up. Predictions of chaos and intimidation have not panned out. Election officials seem to have managed a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza of early voting due to covid-19 remarkably well. Democracy is working.

Third, also remember that, even if total turnout ends up being 150 million, two-thirds of votes are already in. Whatever votes are cast on Nov. 3 represent a significant minority of the vote. The Biden campaign estimated that in Florida, for example, 80 percent of the votes have already been received and processed.

Those early voters are heavily Democratic in most places. If a state counts those first, former vice president Joe Biden may jump to a big lead before same-day, disproportionately Republican votes are tabulated. If a state counts early votes later, President Trump may jump to a lead before early votes are accounted for. In other words, you need to know where the votes came from and by what means they were cast to make sense of the returns.

Fourth, take note that there is no rule that says all votes must be counted by midnight. Or by Wednesday. Or by Friday. States ordinarily take days (or weeks, in places such as California) to count and certify ballots. Votes will be coming in for a long time. You have no alternative but to allow the voting to play out. That is how the system is supposed to work.

Fifth, what happens if Trump declares victory? Nothing. Declaring victory or conceding defeat has no legal significance. Trump may never admit he lost, but he cannot prevent a new president from being elected. States that are able to count early votes as they come in or well in advance of Election Day may have a substantial portion of the vote total to report soon after polls close. That means North Carolina, Georgia and Florida — to name just three — could have a large share of the vote counted well before bedtime on the East Coast. If Biden wins none of them, he still has a clear path to victory; if he wins one or more, Trump’s chances of winning go down dramatically, given that he is unlikely to win Michigan and Wisconsin, which he won in 2016.

Finally, rely on credible news sources such as The Post and the Associated Press’s decision desk to get reliable information about vote totals, number of votes outstanding and other critical data. States will not get “called” if both candidates still have a possible path to victory.

Follow Jennifer Rubin‘s opinionsFollowAdd

In short, the good news is most of the voting is done, and it has gone extraordinarily well. Trump and his minions do not control the outcome by pronouncing victory. Huge early voting tilting Democratic should be reassuring to Biden voters. Aside from that, just let election officials do their jobs. We will have a winner, but quite possibly not Tuesday night.

Actor John Lithgow, author of the 'Trumpty Dumpty' poetry books, explains how he got mean — and empathetic — to write about the "despotic age" of Trump. (The Washington Post)

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