Perhaps you’ve heard something about the ongoing election, which feels as if it kicked off in 1972 and is scheduled to reach its climax Tuesday.

We say ongoing, because many Granite Staters, and others across the nation, have already cast their votes, either by mail, drop-off or, in some other states, early voting at the polls. That’s been possible in previous elections to a degree, but here in New Hampshire, especially, the rules have been changed considerably by the coronavirus pandemic. This election, the secretary of state and attorney general agreed, and the Legislature and Gov. Chris Sununu put into law, that a fear of contracting the virus at the polls is reason enough to obtain an absentee ballot this election season. That’s ballooned the use of absentee balloting, which ought to be a sign that a permanent change is worth consideration.

Because similar dynamics are playing out all over the country — with huge numbers of absentee ballots to be counted by elections officials and, in most states, no opportunity to begin counting before Election Day — we say the election is “scheduled” to reach its climax Tuesday. We hope it will be settled then, but there’s a great chance that in some states, including key swing states, the final tally in the presidential and perhaps other key races won’t be available for some time after the close of the polls. And even in those races, unless they’re a landslide, there could well be recounts, lawsuits, challenges and more.

It’s exhausting; almost enough to make one want to skip the whole process.

If you’ve cast your vote, you can do just that. If you haven’t, well, the time is Tuesday, and if nothing else, the past four years should have ingrained in all of us the importance of playing our vital role in this representative democracy. Because who represents us matters.

It matters who holds the highest office in the land. Ignore the critics who, seeking radical new directions, say there’s no difference between the major party candidates. Whatever your view on him, had Donald Trump not won the presidency four years ago, this would be a vastly different nation right now in myriad ways.

It matters who is elected to Congress, both the House and the Senate. The recent machinations surrounding the appointment of Supreme Court justices are just one example of how the changing of just a few seats could change the direction of key legal principles for decades.

It matters who sits in the governor’s chair. The record number of vetoes over the past two years from Chris Sununu has thwarted the will of the Democratic-led Legislature on a wide array of issues, for better or worse. Whoever sits atop the state government has enormous power to steer the direction of the state for years to come. That person will also face the challenge of dealing with the ongoing pandemic, setting policy and perhaps wielding even greater power under a state of emergency.

But not necessarily, because it also matters who represents us in that Legislature, for they make the laws and pass the budgets that largely control our state’s future. Right now, the House and Senate are controlled by the Democrats, but in the past, that was most often not the case. And whether the legislative majority is of a similar mind as the governor means much in determining which priorities on each side move forward. Who sits on the N.H. Executive Council matters, too, in checking spending and determining who’s appointed to key positions in the courts and executive branch.

Local voters all over the state will decide who sets those priorities. It matters. If you haven’t been paying close attention, you can still find information on all the races and candidates at sentinelsource.com/vote.

We’ve made this argument before. But it seems safe to say the circumstances of this election are unlike any in modern memory. The pandemic has rendered it more challenging to congregate at the polls as usual, to stand in line and catch up with friends and neighbors. A virus that’s easily transmitted in the air and on surfaces, and which often does not cause immediate symptoms poses great challenges for elections officials and workers, and they have implemented additional procedures and precautions that may slow down the process.

So those voting Tuesday should plan on spending extra time at the polls and, for themselves and the sake of others, heed all safety precautions — wear a mask; keep your distance; and wash /disinfect your hands as soon as possible.

It’s important for us all to vote. But also to stay safe.