Editorial: Voters' job includes patience, restraint on Election Day

Your job includes patience and responsibility on an Election Day that could be like no other

Voters, you are not done yet, even if you've voted early or cast your ballot by mail.

On Tuesday, you play an important role as results roll in. Even after you vote, your job carries a lot of responsibility on an Election Day that will be like no other.

Just as this election season has been one-of-a-kind, Tuesday night will be different than in previous elections. Voters will need patience and restraint in allowing the vote-counting process to unfold as it should.

Ready for the challenge? Here's what you can do:

• Don't let social media jump ahead of real results.

You want this Election Day to be over. We all do. But you might need to reset your expectations a bit.

In part, that's because of the record number of mail-in votes. Local election officials have added staff and equipment to swiftly count mail-in ballots after polls close, even in the midst of COVID-19 distancing requirements. They're confident the large number of vote-by-mail ballots won't delay day-of counting.

Even so, there's a chance of a large influx of ballots after Election Day. A valid mailed ballot that's postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrives within the next 14 days will be counted in Illinois. That could swing some races.

Journalists are taking that into account, and might wait to call a race if there's a big gap between the number of mail-in ballots requested and the number returned.

Many partisans, however, won't wait and they'll fill up your social media with claims that might turn out to be false.

You can do your part by vetting your social media sources. Who are they? What do they represent? Are they masquerading as journalists, or as something they're not? Resolve not to share suspect information.

• Voting patterns might skew early counts.

Some election authorities will count in-person votes first, then mail-in votes. Some will do the opposite. Some will mix them in together.

That means early results across Illinois and the nation could reflect a strong lead that later dissipates - the so-called red mirage, or blue mirage - because mail-in ballots appear Republicans appear to be more likely this election to vote on Election Day and Democrats seem more likely to vote by mail. Some people, including some candidates, might call it a win before the full results are clear. Don't be one of those people.

• Slow returns don't mean it's fraud.

There's no reason to see a conspiracy if deliberative vote counting takes longer than usual.

Election fraud actually is pretty rare. A database by the Heritage Foundation lists 1,298 "proven instances of voter fraud" going back to 1979, resulting in 1,121 criminal convictions and 48 civil penalties.

What's the takeaway for Election Day? Have patience. Don't jump to conclusions. Act responsibly, especially on social media. Then you'll have done your part.

Thanks for voting.

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