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What to Do on Election Night 2020? Maybe an Early Bedtime

Devon Powers is dreading election night.

“It’s a weird mix of dread and optimism and fear,” she said. “We will not necessarily know the outcome that night, and there is bound to be some foolery, even if it’s an overwhelming win for Biden. I live in Philly, and that is going to be one of the hot spots for voter intimidation, for civil unrest. Someone is going to be violent somewhere.”

She’s not even over what happened in 2016, when an election party she attended turned sour around 10 p.m. “I am having flashbacks,” she said. “That was extremely traumatic, and I don’t want to relive it in any way.”

So she has decided to skip this year’s altogether.

On Tuesday morning Ms. Powers, 43, a college professor, is driving to Cape May, N.J., where she has rented a cabin. She’s leaving her phone in the car, and will keep her computer turned off. During the day she’ll hit the beach. At night it’s binge watching the first three seasons of “Northern Exposure” and drinking wine.

She will be blissfully unaware of politics until Wednesday at 4 p.m., when she has a Zoom call scheduled for work. “I feel like people will tell me what happened then.”

Indeed.

The election night party is a time-honored American tradition. But with the pandemic curtailing social gatherings, and little to celebrate about 2020, many Americans are choosing to spend the evening of Nov. 3 off the grid, trying to create some kind of Zen moment for themselves.

Some who supported Hillary Clinton are too traumatized from Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 risk such stress again. Others, no matter which candidate they’re supporting, think they won’t even know the results if they tune into the news, so why bother? And some people simply have too much anxiety to go through the night’s play-by-play results.

It’s the opposite coping mechanism from consuming every piece of information to feel a semblance of control, as some who are glued to the news do.

“I am going to a cabin to hide,” Ms. Powers said. “I invited a friend to come down, but she is probably not going to because I told her she can’t bring her phone.”

Jennifer Berk, who works for the Department of Transportation in Indianapolis, gets the day off for Election Day. She is determined to turn what could be a nerve-racking day into a fun, self-soothing time.

During the day she’s going to go for a run, knit a “Doctor Who”-style striped scarf and read books. “I have a whole bunch of them I’m halfway through,” she said. Her 10-year-old’s school is currently operating remotely, so she’s going to take him to play tennis or do archery before making his favorite meal, tacos. Then it’s games, perhaps Chutes and Ladders or Uno, until bedtime.

When Ms. Berk, 43, tunes into politics, she becomes infuriated by developments across the country. “When I read the news I see Ohio, and I’m like, ‘Why is polling like this? Florida is too close, and Georgia is too close,’” she said. “It’s too stressful to watch, especially because there is nothing I can do to control it.” She already voted where she could, and now she’s going to stay away.

Josh and Julianne Davis, 32 and 27, work in social media in Dallas. They have donated to political causes and volunteered for campaigns. They are tied to their phones and keep up with politics daily. “I am a news junkie,” Mr. Davis said.

But they’ve agreed to put away their devices on election night as soon as the results start rolling in.

In 2016 they were in New York City with tickets to “Hamilton” on election night. With their Apple watches silenced and their phones on airplane mode, they realized how lucky they were to have no idea what was happening in the wider world. This year they are trying to create that momentary respite.

They will be watching “Hamilton” on Disney+. “There might be pizza,” Mr. Davis said. “I will be drinking bourbon.” They will turn on their phones much later in the evening, when there might be more clarity about the results.

The decision feels empowering. “I don’t have to sit there doom-scrolling through Twitter for four hours and hanging on to every piece of news and information,” Mr. Davis said. “We will end up with a president one way or another. I don’t need to be there for every waking moment of it.”

But it’s also not an easy decision. “I will be tempted to look at my phone,” he said. “It’s going to be phenomenally difficult to keep my hands to myself.”

If there were election night parties, Joseph Valverde, 24, a student studying political science in San Antonio, would attend. “If things were different, I would definitely be out there with a support group so we can go through it together,” he said.

But as he will be alone, he doesn’t want to face it. He doesn’t want false hope or to ride an emotional roller coaster. “I remember last election, we had moments when it was like ‘Oh my God, Hillary is in the lead’ … ‘Oh my God, Trump is in the lead,’” he said.

Rather than find a way to distract himself, Mr. Valverde is going to pop Benadryl and drift off to sleep: “I am probably going to put a do-not-disturb on my phone and delete Twitter for the day and turn off the notifications,” he said. “I just want an answer in the morning, and I will continue on whatever happens.”

On election night in 2016, Marlee Margulies, 54, who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., was celebrating her birthday. “We had a birthday dinner and gifts with family, followed by watching returns,” she said. ”It was a fun, optimistic time early on.”

But this year she can’t imagine following the election results will be fun, even in the beginning. “I feel in elections past there was a finality to the results,” she said. “This year, I feel that no matter where things land, the courts are going to be involved. Trump loves to litigate.”

She is strongly considering turning to a hot bath and Ambien to ease her anxiety and catch up on rest. “Sleep has been elusive for months,” she said. “However, I don’t know that I’ll be able to keep away.”

“I am so mad at him for not watching,” said Erica Sallee, 40, a manager at Walmart in Chicago. “I went to vote already, I am excited, I am ready for it. I am all ready for the outcome. I need to see what is going on, and I need to know what states are winning.”

Her husband, Robert Sallee, 36, an X-ray technician at a Chicago hospital, has decided he has had enough with politics. “Especially with my job and the fact that I deal with Covid patients every day and how politicized it’s gotten,” he said. “It’s going to be a really crazy night, and I am not expecting it to be over until December. I think it will be contested, and I would rather not deal with the foolishness of the whole night and the unnecessary drama.”

Mr. Sallee’s plan is to watch “Kung Fu Panda” or other movies with his 4-month-old son in his arms instead. But he understands his plan might go awry with his wife in the next room.

“This is what’s going to happen,” he said. “The Florida or Pennsylvania count will come in, and my wife will start cussing or yelling, and I’ll know what’s happening anyway even if I don’t want to.”

“Still,” he added. “I’m going to try to take a pass on this.”

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