Making a Voting Plan: All Your Questions, Answered

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The election is officially less than one month away. And today, Monday Oct. 5, is the last day to register to vote if you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee or Texas.

Dear reader, we cannot stress enough: Firstly, how important it is that you vote this year. And two, how quick and easy it is to register. (Or to confirm your status, if you believe you're already signed up.)

Voting is our civic duty, after all, though it can also feel like a big to-do, especially amid a global pandemic. ET wants to do what we can to make creating your voter plan as stress-free as possible.

Whether you're voting for four more years of Donald Trump or casting your ballot for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is up to you to decide, but we are here to help you with the where, when and how of voting. No matter if you're voting for the first time -- like Snoop Dogg! -- or if you're feeling uncertain about how the coronavirus will affect voting, let's get into all the deadlines, misinformation and more you need to know about this year.

Below, we're tackling the biggest questions around voting with all the answers you might need and helpful (and easy) resources to get you all set up to vote on Nov. 3.

What do I need to make a "voting plan"?

A voting plan is just that: A plan for how and when you're going to vote and making sure you're fully prepared to do so. Some questions you'll have to answer: Where are you voting? Are you going to the polls or do you have a mail-in ballot? How are you getting to your polling place? Do you need to take off work? And who needs an ID where?

How do I register to vote for the first time?

Head over to vote.gov or vote.org as your one-stop registration shop. In most states, you can sign up to vote in November's general election up to October -- with some states allowing day-of, in-person registration -- but confirm your state's deadline to be sure. That said, don't procrastinate: Register now. It truly only takes a minute.

How do I know if I'm already registered to vote?

You can -- and should! -- double, triple and quadruple check your status at Can I Vote.

How do I find my polling place? And how do I get there?

Vote.org will direct you to your local polling place. Talk to your friends and family to see if you can coordinate your trips, and if you don't have transportation of your own, ride services like Uber and Lyft are offering discounted or free rides to polling places this year.

Should I vote in person this year?

While voting may have added complications this year -- due to COVID-19 or general voter suppression, for which you should know your rights -- do not let that discourage you. Wear a mask, mind social distance and be kind to your local poll workers.

If you're able to, though, vote in-person early -- after all, no one wants to be standing in line for hours come Election Day. Many states offer in-person voting as early as a month or more before Nov. 3. Is where you live one of those states? Find out.

Are there any downsides to voting early?

Nope! As long as you feel informed and ready to cast your vote, early voting only makes the process easier and more accessible to potential voters by cutting down on lines, giving more flexibility of timing and, this year, almost guaranteeing socially distancing will be possible.

What happens if I'm in line past when the polls close? Do I still get to vote?

If you're voting in-person on Election Day, it's best to plan to wait in some sort of line. And if you're in line when the polls close in your state, STAY IN LINE. You have the right to vote, according to the ACLU. While no one wants to be standing in line for hours on Election Day, we're all committed to doing so if need be, right?

Some other rights you should be aware, via ACLU: "If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one. If the machines are down at your polling place, ask for a paper ballot. If you run into any problems or have questions on Election Day, call the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA."

Will I need to show my ID?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures -- which broke down voter ID laws state-by-state -- 36 states require some sort of ID at the polls. If you are a first-time voter, you may be expected to show some sort of ID, too.

Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin are the strictest states, in that they require a photo ID, while Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio require a non-photo ID. In both cases, if you don't have the required ID, you can vote with a provisional ballot.

What if I decide I want to vote by mail?

Despite any debate, voting by mail is a very valid form of voting. Especially this year, amid the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it's important to know your mail-in voting rights to ensure a fair and safe election.

Unfortunately, those rights differ from state to state. Some require you to explain why you can't vote in person before they'll provide an absentee ballot; some states have elections held entirely by mail-in ballot. Check your state's vote-by-mail rules and deadlines.

I have more questions about voting by mail. Like, do I have to mail my ballot back? Or can I drop it off in person after I fill it out? And what's the difference between an absentee ballot and voting by mail?

We have all of your answers to questions about voting by mail in this handy guide.

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