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Plan For A Crazy Election Day

Plan For A Crazy Election Day

    If you’re living in the U.S, today’s Election Day. And it’s going to be crazy. Twenty-five percent of eligible voters have already turned in their ballots and just about every voting precinct is expecting record turnouts. That means long lines for voters, as well as a pretty high potential for something to go wrong. I’ve got a couple of tips for straightening out any problems you might run in to.

    Keep an eye on the voting machines

    Plenty of precincts have already reported problems with their voting machines. Last week, CNN reported on only a few examples:

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    “We’re having problems with the poll machines,” a voter in Jacksonville, Florida, told the CNN Voter Hotline. “They’re not aligned correctly, so you’re not sure about which candidate you’re voting for, so they said they brought in 10 new machines as backup machines, but they’ve corrected the issue.”

    Even if your voting machine isn’t working, though, you still have the right to cast your ballot. If it incorrectly records your ballot, call an election judge over immediately. Depending on the state you’re voting in, you should be able to cast a paper ballot if there’s a problem with your voting machine. You may have to ask specifically for that paper ballot, though: overworked volunteer poll workers may not remember to offer it, unfortunately.

    Take your driver’s license with you

    If you’ve moved or changed your information in any way and have not updated your registration, you’ll still probably be able to vote. However, you’ll need to show your driver’s license (depending on precinct) in order to confirm your new information. The same goes if you’re an ‘inactive’ voter. If you haven’t voted in the past couple of years, you will probably have to confirm your status as a registered voter with an election judge. Depending on the circumstances, you may be asked to use a provisional ballot rather than a voting machine.

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    Plan for a wait

    Most counties are advising voters that, no matter what time they’re planning to vote at, they should expect delays. The best time for voting is usually during the late morning or mid-afternoon — avoiding the times when those voters who have to be back to work by a certain time will be voting. If you fall into that category and are planning to vote during your lunch hour or before work, it might be worth letting your boss know that you might be a few minutes (or hours behind).

    Get in before polls close

    In most precincts, as long as you are inside the polling place and in line before the polls close, you will still be able to vote no matter what time you actually get a ballot. If your polling place is running behind, you don’t need to worry about your vote being counted as long as you’re actually in the polling place before the end of voting hours, no matter what urban myths to the contrary state.

    Double check your polling place ahead of time

    Even if you have a voter registration card, go ahead and double check your voting location. I work as an election judge, and during the primary we had to send a lot of voters to a different polling place because of a precinct change. There was even one family who wound up driving to three different polling places because of such a mix up. Google has a pretty reliable map that will locate your polling place based on your address, but if you’re at all unsure you can call your county’s board of elections for confirmation.

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    Check on your polling place’s wait

    A new site, Twitter Vote Report, is coordinating reports of waits and problems at polling places across the country. You can check their website before heading to vote to see if anyone’s Twittered from your polling place. You can also add your own comments through Twitter, the site’s iPhone app, a text message or a good old-fashioned phone call. Check out Twitter Vote Report for more information.

    Know what’s allowed in the polling place

    There are a couple of things that can actually get you thrown out of a polling place. While you can wear clothing, pins, etc. that promote one candidate or the other, you can’t ‘electioneer’ in the polling place. You can’t promote a candidate verbally to other voters. Most precincts are pretty serious about enforcing this rule. This year, I expect most precincts to handle electioneering — or really any hanging around of any kind — pretty severely. If you’ve already voted, you’ll be asked to leave immediately. In part, this year, it will be an issue of poll workers trying to keep the lines moving.

    Read up on your choices

    Odds are good that you already have a sample ballot, listing out everything from the Presidential candidates down to the local school board. I don’t know about you, but there’s a couple of candidates on my ballot who’s names I had never heard of before finding them in the running for a local election. There won’t be any other information on these candidates in your voting booth — so it’s worth your while to at least Google each of those names and try to make up your mind ahead of time.

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    Be nice to your poll workers

    I’m an election judge. We may only work one or two days every couple of years, but trust me when I say that those can be the hardest days you can imagine. I promise that we aren’t out to change the results of the election, make it impossible for you to vote or anything like that, so please, give us the benefit of the doubt if something goes wrong.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

    This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

    Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

    First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

    • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
    • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
    • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

    You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

    All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

    This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

    It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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    The Rules

    I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

    1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
    2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
    3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
    4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

    Who To Talk To?

    I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

    That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

    In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

    Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

    Building Confidence

    The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

    If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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    What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

    Across the Room Rapport

    This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

    In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

    People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

    The Approach

    When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

    Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

    At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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    If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

    However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

    When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

    Briefly, Approaching Groups

    When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

    The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

    A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

    More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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    It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

    Topics Of Conversation

    Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

    • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
    • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
    • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
    • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
    • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

    Exiting Conversation

    Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

    • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
    • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

    Likewise, you could start another conversation.

    If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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