Every morning, I open The Skimm’s latest email and am greeted with the same message: You have to vote. No excuses.
I remember turning 18 and knowing, like you know when you turn 16 and can drive or 21 and can drink, that I could now vote. It was exciting, despite the fact that I wasn’t the news junkie I am today. Another gate to adulthood had opened and I was thrilled to walk through. It would be three years before I would vote in the 2004 presidential election, but still, I had crossed a threshold.
I’ve only voted in three presidential elections in my lifetime, the three I was allowed to vote in since turning 18. Each time, I was more sure than not of my decision. Rarely was I on the fence, particularly at the end of the line in November when it was time to walk into the little booth.
Of course I knew that there may come a time when I wouldn’t be so sure of my choice. When I would have to think harder, listen more closely, make pros and cons lists. If I wanted to be a responsible voter, I would have to be at least somewhat confident in my decision, whichever decision that would be. I always expected to be at least 51% confident, even if it took some work to get there. Never would I have imagined that I would so strongly dislike each candidate that it would even the playing field in the worst way possible.
Not only am I unsure of who I will vote for, I’m not entirely sure I’m going to vote at all. With each passing week, I swing farther to the “not voting” side. The closer I pay attention to the race, the farther I get from a decision. And the farther I get from a decision, the more I lean toward making no official decision at all.
I value my right to vote. I think that everyone who is of legal voting age should think long and hard before they opt to not take the opportunity. It drives me up the wall when people don’t vote out of sheer disinterest or because they don’t care about current events or because they tune out the media around election time. I’m completely supportive of people voting for whatever reasons they may have – if voters want to choose Hillary because they simply want a woman as president, I think that’s fine. If you’re going to vote and you have a reason, whatever that reason is, I fully support you.
I also don’t begrudge news outlets and celebrities and bumper stickers that remind me to vote. I’m fine with being pushed to make a decision and to put that decision down somewhere it will matter. I want to be reminded that I can vote. I waited 18 years and then three more years for the ability to vote for a president and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet.
What I don’t appreciate is the messaging that I have to vote. That because I can vote and, admittedly, should vote, I must vote. That I’m doing my country a disservice if I don’t vote. That I have no excuse to not vote and that a decision, any decision, is better than no decision at all.
With my right to vote also came my right to choose to not vote. Since the age of 18, I’ve been trusted with a huge decision every four years, one that can take months to make. As any adult learns, though, simply being able to do something doesn’t mean it’s a responsible thing to do.
I’m not an uninformed U.S. citizen. I’ve watched the debates and I can hold my own in a conversation about politics. On a personal level, I’m an open-minded, level-headed person who can be guilty of being under-emotional at times. My head is built for making decisions like this. It also knows when a decision cannot be made.
I have opinions about the election, lots of them. When it comes to A versus B, though, those opinions haven’t tipped the scale either way. With each negative opinion I have of the candidates, the scale balances even more. I dislike both of them so equally that I cannot choose a lesser of the evils.
It’s rare that I choose to do nothing when faced with not knowing what to do. When it comes to this election, though, I find myself wanting to sit this one out. I don’t have a voice that wants to be heard. I don’t have a choice that I can stand behind. I won’t complain when either candidate is chosen because I’ll know, wholeheartedly, that I couldn’t have done better myself.