Courtesy of YouTube
Courtesy of YouTube

If you’ve already picked your preferred presidential candidate, congratulations; I won’t try to persuade you one way or another. However, if you have decided to not vote this year because both of the likely winners are repulsive to you: Vote! Your vote will absolutely matter, even if you think it won’t. The only way your voice won’t be heard is if you refuse to exercise your right to make the government listen. Our generation is the one that will have to take charge of whatever America the next president will offer us — and they offer us two very different Americas. If we fall into political apathy now, we’ll just be giving up our power as citizens and tomorrow’s leaders to shape our home into the country we want it to be.

I can understand why someone might not like either of the potential winners. On one hand we have Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul who often says rude things, and on the other, we have Hillary Clinton, a career politician whose so-called “charity” foundation, during her time as secretary of state, accepted millions of dollars from countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar; countries which the U.S. Department of State notes for their issues with human rights and discrimination against women and LGBT people.

Meanwhile, the media is so swamped with covering the mudslinging between Trump and Clinton that they hardly ever cover third party candidates like Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gloria la Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This negligence might keep a lot of potential voters from even knowing that they have options besides Trump and Clinton. But, even if a voter is aware of the plethora of alternative candidates, the media gives so little attention to those alternatives that a third party has no way to realistically win. Only Trump and Clinton met all three of the Commission on Presidential Debates’ criteria to be invited to debate. Johnson and Stein weren’t invited because they couldn’t demonstrate a “level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate.”

Naturally, this creates a self-perpetuating problem; when all the attention goes to the Democrats and Republicans, third parties have a much harder time garnering enough support to qualify them to get even more support by participating in a debate! Then, when citizens can’t decide who they despise the least — the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate — some may conclude that there’s no point in voting and give up, throwing away their right to even have a say in their country’s future.

The struggle for all citizens to obtain equal voting rights is far too long a story to tell here. But, situations such as these are just one of many reasons why so many have fought to secure the right to vote. When Americans are dissatisfied with whoever they’re about to put in charge of an important governmental role, they use their votes to force the government to listen; they don’t just give up. Choosing to not vote is choosing to hand off part of your power as a citizen to someone else.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. The next president won’t change the country into something unrecognizable overnight. However, the president’s principles and ideals always influence and direct the course that the United States goes down. With how divisive and hectic this election has become, you owe it to yourself to prepare for the next four years by taking the time to go vote for whichever candidate you would want to lead your country.

Ignore the propaganda and mudslinging and plainly look at each candidate’s principles, plans and values. All three debates between Trump and Clinton, as well as the one between their running mates, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, are available online. Watching the debates is one of the best ways to gauge each candidate’s honesty and ability to perform under pressure. While you should focus on whether or not a particular candidate’s principles are what you want to see in our future leader, it also behooves you to take a look at the campaigns themselves and all the accusations and controversies surrounding them, such as the alleged attempts at rigging the election, as well as all the information released by Wikileaks. Obviously, take it all with a grain of salt.

The myth that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter, for any reason, is a huge threat to democracy and to your right as a citizen to have a say in how your country works. Chances are, if you can’t stand Trump or Clinton, a third party candidate would be right for you. But even if you have to pick the candidate you dislike the least, go out and vote.

The myth that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter, for any reason, is a huge threat to democracy and to your right as a citizen to have a say in how your country works