Q: Do you have any recommendations on dealing with pre-debate jitters?
A: It’s all about rehearsing the right way. When you rehearse, do so using the actual physical layout of the debate—table, podiums, chairs, time keepers, questioners, etc. You should also prep with the actual back-and-forth format—opening statement, answers, rebuttal, and closing statement.
Make sure to address all possible topics during rehearsal—that includes embarrassing personal issues (divorces, child support payments, drug use) and oddball questions (personal heroes, book most recently read, negative characteristic about yourself, something positive about your opponent). Also, make sure to decompress and rest before the actual debate.
Avoid mood-altering substances—pain killers, alcohol, cold medicine. And think of positive things during the debate. Former Sen. Mary Landrieu once placed a photograph of her infant grandson on her debate podium as a way of remembering to smile during one 60-minute debate.
Q: What’s the stupidest thing you saw in the last election?
A: Since there’s no statute of limitations on stupid, the dumbest thing we learned about in 2014 was actually from an election in 2012: two campaign workers in Texas pled guilty to distributing cocaine in exchange for votes during a primary for school board and county commission.
Q: How does provisional voting work?
A: As the Maryland Board of Elections explains, a provisional ballot allows someone to cast their vote, and then if the local board of elections later determines the provisional individual is properly registered, the ballot will be counted. According to the California Secretary of State, provisional voting ensures that “no properly registered voter is denied their right to cast a ballot if that voter’s name is not on the polling place roster due to a clerical, processing, computer, or other error” and enables “elections officials to ensure that no voter votes twice, either intentionally or inadvertently, in a given election.”
Q: Can you provide any examples of prohibited activities for official emails? Our chief of staff is getting antsy for an internal policy now that we have transitioned to the government office.
A: Inappropriate use of government email includes, but is not limited to, messages causing “congestion, delay, or disruption of service,” chain letters and other unauthorized mass mailings, and messages that are offensive—that includes hate speech or material that ridicules others on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation.
Also steer clear of any material related to illegal activities, any content for commercial purposes or “for-profit” activities, any outside fundraising activity, and the posting of government information without authority that could create the perception that the communication was made in an official capacity. And obviously the creation, download, viewing, storage, copying or transmission of sexually explicit or sexually oriented materials is prohibited. In Pennsylvania last year, a state Supreme Court justice resigned after it was revealed that he had exchanged pornographic emails with other government employees.
Q: I just filled out a survey. It was a piece of junk and the usual thinly veiled plea for money. Last year, when I started to receive 50 emails a day, I deleted all of them. Somebody needs to streamline the fundraising effort so pitches are meaningful. And that includes finding a way to stop harassing people over money.
A: The harassment you experienced is indeed overkill, and it does dumb down the process and contribute to the negative views of politicians held by voters.
In the vast majority of cases, the recipient ignores these perfectly legal solicitations and, like you, doesn’t make a donation. But as with scam emails from people claiming to be foreign honchos whose money is tied up temporarily, these messages make money when only a small percentage take the bait. If you really hate these communications, opt out and stop registering for updates from your preferred candidates and political organizations.
Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state and national campaigns for more than 20 years. Send questions via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US.