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Advisory Opinions #17: Election Day Survival Guide

cmdi | Mon Jan 23, 2023

You've almost made it to Election Day. Find out how to maximize your day with tips and suggestions that your hosts, Jack and Adrienne, gathered from campaign veterans. Hear about lessons learned, strategies for planning your day, and how to best prepare for the unexpected from early in the morning until late that night.


• Scroll down to read the tips discussed in the episode or click here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the hosts and do no necessarily reflect the policies or positions of CMDI, or any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

Election Day Survival Guide

We asked campaign veterans for their best advice on how to get through Election Day. It’s a long day regardless of if it ends in victory or defeat. Learn from the tips below to minimize the stress of the day.


  • Make sure you have a written schedule that is shared with both the staff, the candidate’s family, and key volunteers. This will change but having an ideal schedule in writing will help you stay on track.

  • Have the candidate's schedule memorized to the best of your ability. Things change, and you'll want to know what events will be affected.

  • Plan to have 1-2 people around to simply run errands. You’ll need last minute stuff, so someone needs to be around to run to the store.

  • If you're a runner or you'll be responsible for driving/transportation, know where the gas stations are, know what coffee shop is closest to your polling places, etc. Make your trips as efficient as possible.

  • At the location of your victory party, plan to have separate spaces for both the candidates family as well as a quiet space for the candidate.

Communications: work ahead! 

  • Before Election Day arrives, make sure you have prepared a victory and concession version of what you might need, including:

    • Candidate speech

    • Press releases

    • Email for your list

  • No matter what the polls say, always prepare both a winning and losing version!

  • Avoid thinking, “Oh, I’ll do this task on Election Day.” As much as possible, do everything ahead of time. Keep the Election Day dedicated to handling stuff as it comes up.

Get information prepared.

  • Make sure at least two people on the campaign have the contact information for your opposition in case a concession call is needed.

  • Know who to point people to if there's a complaint about voter fraud/ballot integrity. There should be an external team of attorneys handling it.

Do a sign blitz.

  • Depending on laws in your state, it can be fun to do a yard sign blitz the night before. Place the signs out front of polling locations or in a visible place nearby in accordance to local rules. This creates a memorable experience for younger staff and might remind some folks to vote for your candidate!

Sleep is critical.

  • Get some rest the night before. You may have a recount and won't sleep for another five weeks. Been there.

  • Your main goal the night before is getting rest. As hard as it sounds, it’s the best thing for your body and sanity.

  • Get some sleep! This honestly applies long before election day. Keep your sleep bank full, and you'll be much better on Election Day.

  • Delegate and take a catnap! Once you hit the 72-hour GOTV window, sleep is hard to come by. Don't be afraid to delegate to a trusted lieutenant and grab a power nap for an hour. They can run the phone bank and field questions for a bit.

  • The more sleep deprived you become, the more stupid decisions you will make.

Pack a bag. 

  • Plan on bringing a backpack or big purse to carry stuff. Keep a notepad, pens, scissors, hand sanitizer, tissues, and headache medication in your bag.

  • Keep your clothes for the victory party with you to change into quickly. Don’t plan on having time to go home and get ready.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. You probably won’t sit much throughout the day.

Hydrate & avoid getting hangry.

  • Make sure everyone has some sort of pocket-sized food and a thing of mints. Human things. People have a tendency to perpetuate their own internalized drama by not eating, letting their contacts dry out, refusing to take an Excedrin and drinking water, etc.

  • If you're going to have a purse or backpack of some kind, toss in some eye drops and a peanut butter sandwich, and calm down.

  • Keep snacks with lots of protein with you like cheese, energy bars, Greek yogurt, or nuts. Opt for healthier snacks that won’t cause you to have a sugar high and then crash.

  • Drink lots of water and don't forget to eat. Your body is a machine and needs fuel.

Stay charged up.

  • Make sure you have an external phone battery or a Mophie-type device to be able to charge your phone as you move throughout the day.

  • Don’t rely on finding either the time or an outlet to charge up your phone. The chances of both of those things being available together are very low.

Election Day isn’t about you.

  • Nothing happening on Election Day has anything at all to do with you, and your job is to make sure it stays that way.

  • All election preparation is a perfection of a process. You knock as many doors as efficiently as you can. You make as many phone calls as efficiently as you can. You plan out your day as efficiently as possible so that you can go to bed at a decent hour. There is only so much one can do in a day, and people do over-dramatize what it means to work on a campaign.

  • Do not surrender to the assumption that anyone not suffering a dramatic mental collapse simply does not understand what is at stake here.

It's in the attitude.

  • Remember that while it's important, and your work makes an impact, the sun will come up the next day either way. Maintain perspective.

  • It’s a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s not over until it’s over. Races can be called the next day and even weeks after.

  • Try and enjoy yourself and soak it up. Know you did good work. This is democracy at its finest. Know if your candidate lost, you’ll have other opportunities in the future. This is not the end.

  • The world will still exist on Wednesday. If it all hits the fan and nothing goes to plan, it's ok.

Keep Twitter in Perspective.

  • Don’t read too much into Twitter. It’s usually players yelling at players.

  • There’s always lots of fake news on Election Day, and it spreads like wildfire on Twitter. Stay aware of what’s happening but look for confirmed information before ever acting on a report or allegation.

  • Don't believe anything you read on Twitter. Know processes on what to do if a recount were to happen. Just follow the process. Election day is just like any other day but with a few more reports scattered throughout the day.

Be nice.

  • Always be nice to volunteers. They’re free labor and will quickly leave when they are not appreciated.

  • Reporters are always watching.

Watch the alcohol.

  • Don’t drink until they call the race. You’ll need to be on your A-game until the end. Remember reporters are always watching.

  • Pace imbibing while watching returns to account for the fact you might be awake until Thursday.

  • Tell staff to avoid drinking until after the victory party is over. If it’s an option, plan for staff to gather in a different, private location for an after-party where everyone can commiserate or celebrate together.

  • Make sure staff have plans for how to get home that night.