With the primaries in full force, the conversation surrounding the upcoming presidential election has greatly intensified. In social media and news coverage comments, I've seen many people write, "I hate all the candidates. I'm not going to vote for anybody." It's understandable to lack passion about this election's crop of candidates, but there are many reasons why you should vote in a presidential election anyway, even if it's for the lesser of two evils.
One of Them is Going to Win Regardless, So Have a Say
In presidential elections, the likelihood that a Republican or Democrat will win is almost certain. While third parties exist, they have not won a presidential election.
The next Republican or Democrat presidential candidate will impact you and your family for at least the next four years. Isn't it better to have a say in it versus letting someone else decide? Choosing the lesser of two evils is one way to take control in an inevitable situation.
Some people vote for a third party or write in a name like "Mickey Mouse." Though these write-ins have no chance of winning, they're often submitted on principle or as a protest vote. Though seemingly noble, one of the two leading candidates will win. Consider voting for the one who will impact you the least negatively.
"My Vote Doesn't Matter" is Not True
I often hear people exclaim, "My state always goes [Democrat / Republican] so why bother to vote?" Remember your vote doesn't just go to a winner in one election; it also influences the preferences of the electorate.
Rougeleaderr.com explains: "Our representatives are highly sensitive to the preferences of the people who elect them (i.e. they represent us). And as such, their policy positions are highly malleable and shift as the preferences of the electoral shift. How do politicians know which way the winds are blowing...they watch the voting data."
Consider this - when voter turnout is low, each vote weighs more heavily and can impact the outcome of a close election. CNN states, "Many say third-party candidate Ralph Nader played a 'spoiler' role in the 2000 election. Running to the left of Democrat Al Gore, Nader received 97,488 popular votes in Florida, a state Republican George W. Bush eventually won by just 537 votes. If most of the Nader supporters had voted for Gore instead, Gore would have won Florida's 25 electoral votes, and he would have been elected president instead of Bush."
Don't Take Voting Rights for Granted
Through the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, voting is a right in America, and citizens often take it for granted because it's never been taken away. This is not the case in many other countries.
My father grew up in China during the Communist takeover in the late 1940s. As a child, he recalls Communist enforcers publicly parading dissidents (or perceived dissidents) onto a stage. They required the public to attend to reinforce the consequences of disagreeing with them. The enforcers made the accused kneel on broken glass while beating them. Signs posted on wooden poles stated the perpetrator's name and alleged crime, which was then read aloud. The Communist enforcers would ask the crowd if the dissident should die. Inevitably the crowd chanted, "Yes, yes, yes!"-- not surprising given the government mindset of "you're either for or against us." Seared in my father's childhood memories are the sounds of gunshots piercing the air.
As Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country that gives its citizens rights that many other societies do not accord to their citizens. Please don't take that for granted.
Be a Role Model for Kids
In the 1960s my father emigrated from China, and when he became an American citizen he volunteered at polling sites and made sure to vote at every presidential election. As a young child, I remember waiting patiently in line with him to vote. It was a great way to teach me the process and normalize the act. Bring your kids with you to the voting booth to have them model this behavior.
Don't Vote, Don't Complain
I've mentioned just some of the many reasons why you should vote, even if you hate all the presidential candidates. If you don't exercise your right to vote, then you have no right to complain. Be a catalyst for change. Just vote, and if you're not sure how, check the resources below.