Elections Engagement Toolkit
The New York Times has created a 2020 Presidential Election Calendar that provides important information about when:
- Voters can start casting their ballots in-person or by mail
- Ballots must be postmarked
- Ballots must be received in order to be counted
This calendar links directly to the sources of information from each state, ensuring the accuracy of the information.
About half of states require that ballots be received no later than Election Day (Tuesday, November 3), while the other half of states have dates that extend days or weeks after Election Day. As such, due to the larger than usual number of voters who will cast their ballot by mail, this might mean that some states will not declare a winner in many elections, including the election for President of the United States, on Election Day itself.
Other important dates to be aware of:
- By December 8, 2020: All states will have certified their election results.
- On December 14, 2020: The electoral votes for President of the United States will be cast.
- By December 23, 2020: The certified electoral votes from each state will be brought to the United States Congress.
- On January 3, 2021: The new members of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives will be sworn into office.
- On January 6, 2021: The electoral votes for President of the United States will be counted and certified by the United States Congress.
- On January 20, 2021: Inauguration Day, the next President of the United States will be sworn into office.
COVID-19 and the Election
The Washington Post created an interactive article about the impact of COVID-19 on elections earlier in 2020, and project ways in which COVID-19 might impact the General Election on November 3.
The Power of the Vote
Every vote matters. Throughout the history of the United States, many elections have been tied, decided by a single vote, or just a few votes. And it happens more often than you might think.
Beyond the power of our individual votes, the people elected to public office hold extraordinary power. It is important to understand who they are, why they are qualified to represent us, and where they stand on community issues.
Stony Brook University has partnered with BallotReady to offer an easy tool for students to research who and what is on their ballot, with information collected directly from candidates and states themselves. Only facts. Click here to get started with BallotReady.
Talking About the Election
How to Have Challenging Conversations
Navigating disagreements and difficult conversations.
- A Better Way To Argue About Politics: "One reason it's so hard to reach across the ideological divide is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethics of their own side, rather than that of their opponents," says Atlantic write Olga Khazan.
- How to Have Difficult Conversations: How do you handle having to face a difficult conversation? Most of us try to avoid them altogether. But when we do that, we miss opportunities to get what we want, connect, and learn something about ourselves in the process. In this video, you are introduced to four techniques that can be used to help improve communication skills.
- How Should We Safeguard And Improve Our Elections?: These are tools and resources that can be used if you want to have a formal, structured conversation about voting and elections. The tools and resources include an introductory video, facilitator and participant guides, and a post-conversation questionnaire to collect feedback and additional thoughts.
Political conversations in the household.
- Family Politics: Jenn Stanley is a self-described liberal. Her father, Peter Stanley, votes Republican. Over time, a deepening chasm between them made it difficult to talk about the things they care about -- until they sat down to try and listen to each other's points of view.
- How To Deal With Your Toxic Relatives: With the holidays and breaks approaching, many might be feeling anxious about some of the family, relatives, friends, and other people you might be interacting with or running into.
It is important to research claims, policies, and points of view using reputable sources. Some sources to consider:
- PolitiFact: Fact-checking journalism is the heart of PolitiFact. Their core principles are independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting and clear writing. The reason they publish is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.
- Snopes: When misinformation obscures the truth and readers do not know what to trust, Snopes' fact-checking and original, investigative reporting lights the way to evidence-based and contextualized analysis.
- Stony Brook University Center for News Literacy: What Is News Literacy?
The Value of Emotions
The election, and our current societal climate, can provoke a variety of feelings and thoughts. Learning to acknowledge and label your emotions is a powerful step towards self-awareness and allows us to better understand ourselves in comparison to the communities we are part of. Once you are able to identify the emotions and thoughts you are feeling, you can also create healthy self-soothing actions and self-care routines to de-escalate, destress, and overcome challenging moments and feelings.
Why should we name our emotions?
During emotional situations, such as the election season, feelings may arise left and right as we navigate difficult conversations, react to the media we are continuously surrounded by, and develop our own thoughts and opinions about the situation. The less aware we are of our emotions, the less likely we are to figure out how to best regulate them.
Naming your own emotions and becoming comfortable with the spectrum of emotion can be incredibly helpful in interacting with others as well. When engaging in dialogue, being aware of other’s emotions can also encourage healthier conversations. Making the effort to understand our emotions in a non-judgmental way is key to better regulating our responses to emotion, which in turn also helps us navigate our environments more smoothly.
Tips and Tricks to identify and name our emotions:
Simply looking at a chart of emotions several times a day and identifying what you are feeling in to moment helps to normalize the plethora of emotions that one can fluctuate through during the course of the day.
- Take a moment to name your emotions and sit with them before reacting to a particularly provoking situation. This will allow you the opportunity to fully process what you are feeling and vocalize it openly rather than simply reacting.
- Try journaling/tracking your emotions throughout the week. This can provide a baseline toward your emotional wellness that allows you to begin digging a little deeper. There are several apps, like Moodily or MoodDiary, if you would prefer digital over paper.
Why can naming our emotions be so difficult?
There are 100s of reasons why understanding and naming our emotions can be challenging. Some common reasons that we may struggle include: 1) society’s expectation to suppress strong emotions especially for certain groups of people or in certain environments, 2) emotions can overlap and are not mutually exclusive, 3) and emotions can be easier to ignore than to deal with especially in challenging situations or busy periods.
Self-soothing and self-care pre, during and post election
We can experience immense pressure and challenging moments in our day-to-day lives. We strive to show up as our best self for school/work, relationships, and for ourselves. We can make this more attainable daily with self-care practices. In a particularly challenging moment, we can also turn to healthly self-soothing to alleviate some of the immediate harsh emotions we may feel.
Self-Soothing Vs. Self-Care: Surviving or Thriving
Before we explore self-care that allows us to thrive, we need to develop a foundation of self-soothing in order to simply survive. The goal of self-soothing is to get through tough moments and the mini-crises that arise in our daily lives. Self-soothing can look like taking a hot shower after a long day, snuggling up with a pet, or eating something you enjoy. However, self-soothing is temporary and healthy when done appropriately but can transform from temporary distraction to avoidance, which is an unhealthy coping mechanism.
That’s where self-care comes in! Comparatively, self-care can look like less fun BUT is sustainable and necessary for long-term self support. Self-care sets your future self up for success and stability by addressing basic needs: eating nutritious food, attending to personal hygiene, engaging in daily physical movement, meditating, going to therapy, etc. These practices allow for you to create a healthy baseline to navigate the world from.
Healthy self-soothing ideas during election season:
- Take a break from social media and news- instead watch something that makes you laugh like a comedy special or animated film
- Attend a virtual or in-person social program
- Take a nap or go to sleep early
- Go for a walk with friends or exercise
Healthy self-care ideas during election season:
- Connect with a community of people that make you feel valued and supported
- Create a morning and nighttime routine that includes mindfulness reflection and gratefulness
- Journal your emotions and worries. Simply spending 10-15 minutes a day actively writing down your concerns and thoughts can allow you the mental space to actively process
- Get educated and consider getting involved! As counterproductive as this may sound, getting educated and involved can allow you to feel more connected to the communities around you
How am I reacting in relation to my community?
It is incredibly important to also recognize our emotions in relation to the community. Once we are more aware of our own emotions, it becomes easier to increase our emotional intelligence and understand the thoughts and feelings of those around us. Being emotionally aware of those in our communities helps to build stronger relationships and bonds, allows for easier navigation of conflict and discourse, and creates a space in which sharing is encouraged.
Being mindful of our emotions and reactions in situations is important especially when building community and trust. Considering those who need space to process or to experience emotion is key to creating a successful shared environment. Ensuring that we actively listen to those around us, observe their emotions, and express our own emotions properly are the first steps to developing trust and opening dialogue.
How do the emotions of others influence me?
Being aware of how others’ emotions affect you is extremely helpful. Emotions are contagious- which can be helpful and harmful depending on the situation. Our bodies and minds react to the social responses of others, which is largely controlled by their own emotions. When a friend is feeling happy or enthused, it is much easier to feel positive and excited. And vice versa, when those around you are experiencing stress or are upset, it is much easier to feel down or pessimistic.
Second-hand stress is a stress response that is triggered by someone else’s behavior. When we acknowledge the stress that others are experiencing and carrying, it can signal to our own nervous system that we should also be stressed or worried. Second-hand stress can come from families, friends, peers/coworkers, and even strangers and media.
Breaking the endless cycle of stress
It’s common that those who cause secondhand stress don’t realize the impact that they are having on others. To break the cycle of stress, there are some easy tricks that can help:
- Build healthy boundaries with friends, family, peers, and others. For example, when someone begins complaining about something stressful they saw on the news, empathize and support the person but don’t feel pressure to continue adding to that part of the conversation- change the topic or leave.
- Create a healthy stress management toolkit. By practicing some simple breathing and mindfulness practices regularly, you will be able to respond to stress using the techniques that are already in your repertoire.
- Take a break from social media, news, and gossip. While it is of course possible for social media and news to have positive, inspiring stories, it is also very common that these outlets will spend time showcasing stress-inducing events and situations. Taking a break from the negatives, maybe by taking a walk or reading a book, allows us a much-needed opportunity to distance ourselves from second-hand stress.
- Accentuate the positives in your day. Take some time to reflect on what is going well in your day and what you are grateful for.
- Be mindful of when you are the secondhand stress spreader. We’ve all been on the BOTH the receiving and the causing side of secondhand stress. Try to monitor the conversations you’re having and realize when venting begins to turn to negativity.
We Voted, Now What? Learn, Engage, Support
Engaging in Inclusive Conversations That Value the Emotions of Everyone
It is important to engage in and create conversations which are inclusive to the feelings of all students and their unique experiences through the lens of listening and affirming. Leading up to and after the election can impact people differently so as Seawolves it is helpful for us to practice empathy and have inclusive conversations that value the emotions of everyone in an effort to learn and grow together. It is normal and natural to have differing views, opinions, and disagreement. To add to Stony Brook University’s community of care, it is also important to engage in conversations that are civil and affirm everyone and their unique identities and perspectives.
Some helpful tips to practice when having an inclusive and learning conversation:
Adapted and inspired from the book “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.
- Find your Third Story: Think like a mediator, remove judgements from disagreement and let all parties process their concerns and opinions together.
- Ask questions to learn about others’ perspectives and experiences.
- Allow yourself time to genuinely listen to another person’s experience.
- Acknowledge and affirm the validity of what others may be feeling during this time.
- Say what you mean and allow others to do the same.
- Reframe the conversation from blame to enlightenment. Try practicing the statement: “I understand where you are coming from and…”
- If you have time before the conversation, reflect and process your individual emotions and consider any personal bias you may have before starting the conversation.
Participating in the election process by casting your vote is an important component in the civic engagement process. A next step is considering how you, as an individual student leader, or member of a recognized student organization, can continue to productively start and engage in the conversation around the election to provide space and support for your fellow Seawolves. You might be asking yourself, how can I do this? How can I engage in and create dialogue around the election?
Election Engagement Opportunities for a Student Leader
- Do your own research on the election process and how it works, who are the candidates, and for their ideals and platforms? Where do these stances align or differ from your personal beliefs?
- Identify those close to you such as close friends, family, or mentors who you can process ideas around the election with.
- Determine how you can engage in the conversation around the election and action steps on your plan for doing so.
- Work with your peers to help get them engaged in the conversation around the election.
- Reach out to campus departments for resources that you need during the election period.
- Find community within a student organization or affinity space, or attend a program. If you need help finding a student organization, visit SBEngaged to identify student organizations or events that match your interests, needs, and identities.
Election Engagement Opportunities for a Resident Assistant
- Check in with your residents pre-and-post election to learn how they are doing.
- Work with your Residence Hall Director to provide opportunities for engagement around the election including hall programs, sharing campus resources, and more.
- Create a virtual space for your residents to gather, have conversations around the election, or create a brave space for dialogue, sharing, and learning together. It is also equally important to provide a virtual space for team builders, games and laughter during high stress times!
- Allow your residents to share perspective into what they need from an open space at any given time.
Election Engagement Opportunities for Recognized Student Organizations
- Hold an Honest and Productive Discussion in your Student Organization General Body Meeting on topics salient to your membership as you prepare for and process post-election together. Set ground rules for the conversation, purpose for the conversation, and ensure that all members feel included and heard in the conversation. Some discussion topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- What are the norms around discussion you have and will continue to create around the election in your spaces?
- What do respectful conversations look like to you? What has to be part of it? How do you see this happening post-election?
- What are some of your hopes and concerns for the future of the country? What are some action steps we can take as a student organization to be a productive part of the change we would like to create?
- How can we foster a community of care and respect within our organization surrounding the election? What campus resources are available to help support us in creating this community of care?
- What do we need to feel supported pre-election, during the election, and after the election? How can our student organization provide this support for all of our membership?
- Host programs on topics and themes related to the pre-and-post election. Some programs may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Understanding the election process
- Learning about all the candidates
- Understanding self-values and casting your vote
- Engaging in Productive and Respectful Election Discourse
- Self-soothing and well-being
- Building community
- Create a petition that outlines change you hope to make and create
- Host a rally or assembly (please see below for information about Public Assembly, as cited by the Community Guidelines for Recognized Student Organizations 20-21):
Free speech and peaceful assembly are rights of citizens and are fundamental to the University as a center for open inquiry in the search for knowledge and insight. The University is strongly committed to the protection of these rights for all members of the campus community. However, these rights bring with them a concurrent obligation to maintain a campus atmosphere conducive to scholarly pursuits and respect for the rights of all individuals. Student organizations engaged in assemblies, demonstrations, and similar expressions of First Amendment rights (herein referred to generically as "assemblies") may not infringe on the rights of others or disrupt essential operations of the University. While exercising the right to public assembly, the Code of Student Responsibility and all other University policies remain in effect. Student organizations must operate within the bounds of Policy P107R: Public Assembly. Some of the basic tenets of this policy include the following:
1. Assemblies may not prevent the orderly conduct of a University function or activity, such as lectures, meetings, interviews, ceremonies, and other public events.
2. Assemblies may not obstruct the free movement of vehicles or of persons, including, but not limited to in any building or facility, inclusive of blocking hallways and doors. If a protest area is established by a University official(s), protestors are required to comply with these physical boundaries.
3. Assemblies may not willfully cause injury or damage to persons or property.
4. Assemblies may not jeopardize the safety and security of others, including but not limited to, the presence of sticks, poles, or torches, which are prohibited.
Please review the Student Organization Health and Safety Guidelines - Fall 2020 to ensure all in-person activities are conducted safely.
The Department of Student Engagement & Activities (SEA) team are committed to working with organizations to allow for safe assemblies regardless of topic. Each recognized student organization has a designated Program Advisor that works with SEA to support program development, logistics, risk mitigation and safety.If you are a student organization who needs support with their programs please contact your program advisor. If you are unsure who your organization's program advisor is, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Who Can Help Me?
Related Campus Resources for Students & Student Organizations: This list is non-exhaustive and there are several more resources available to assist students, faculty and staff. For more information, please go to the Division of Student Affairs Website.
On-Campus and Virtual Resources:
Living on Campus and have questions, concerns, or comments? Find your Residence Hall Director and Area Director here ! (Feel free to reach out to your Resident Assistant, or any Resident Assistant in your community as well.)
Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO) - CPO offers a wide range of services and educational opportunities to address topics including mental health, alcohol and other substances, healthy relationships, sexual violence prevention and physical health education.
Center for Civic Justice (CCJ) - CCJ offers services and educational opportunities that empower students to better understand their community and take appropriate steps to create positive positive through awareness, advocacy, and action. CCJ leads the university's voter engagement efforts.
- Located in Student Health Services, Second Floor; however, currently operating virtually
- Phone: 631-632-6720. Call CAPS to schedule an appointment for initial counseling care.
- Need support on nights or weekends? Contact CAPS After Hours! Call (631) 632-6720, and press 2 to speak to a professional counselor.
Department of Student Engagement & Activities (SEA) - SEA provides oversight , training, advisement and guidance to the 300+ University-recognized student clubs and organizations, manages organizational conduct, and more!
Office of Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living - The Office of Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living is committed to offering support, programming, resources and outreach targeted towards students who do not reside on-campus. We orient commuter students to Stony Brook University and the local community, and provide them with the tools they need to be successful both on and off campus.
Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards - Student Conduct and Community Standards supports the University's educational goals by promoting a just, safe, orderly, civil, and positive University climate for learning; both inside and outside the classroom, through behavioral standards, student conduct processes, training, and intervention efforts.
Student Support Team - Students may experience a variety of challenges during their college career. The Office of the Dean of Students’ Student Support Team coordinates efforts to assist students who encounter challenges or concerns in achieving success at Stony Brook University.
University Police Department - For emergencies, contact University Police at 333 from campus phones or (631) 632-3333 from non-campus phones. For business related questions, please contact (631) 632-6350 during regular business hours.
Crisis Text Line (U.S. only)
- Text HELLO to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- 24 hour crisis intervention & support hotline
Response Crisis Center
- 24 hour crisis intervention hotline and ONLINE crisis counseling service
- Mon-Fri 7pm-11pm
The Trevor Project
- 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
- The nation’s only 24/7 crisis & suicide prevention helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth
The Elections Engagement Toolkit is a collaborative effort between the Department of Residential Education, the Department of Student Engagement & Activities, the Center for Prevention & Outreach, and the Department of Student Community Development's Center for Civic Justice.