From a young age, we are told the importance of voting, but we are not told an equally important truth — it’s okay not to vote

In just eight months, the people of the United States will have the opportunity to either replace President Donald Trump or give him another four years in office. But before you make the decision of who to vote for, consider the unpopular alternative of not voting.

From a young age, citizens of the U.S. are educated of the significance of voting. We are told to vote because it’s our obligation, because people died for our rights to have a democracy and thereby our right to vote, because our vote can make a difference. 

This is all true.

I am not arguing against the importance of voting. It is our duty. People did go to war and die for our right to vote. Indeed, our vote can make a difference. 

Our vote can also make a difference if we choose not to use it.

Most people associate not voting with laziness or apathy to politics. While this is true for millions around the country who do not vote each election cycle, it is not true for everyone.

In 2016, I had my first opportunity to vote. I had turned 18 just 10 months prior to election day and I did vote in the Nevada Primaries. While I’m not fond of politics, the significance of voting had been instilled in me through my AP US History class and my Citizenship in the Community and Nation merit badges from Boy Scouts. 

I had every intention of voting in the presidential election. Then the unthinkable happened. Trump won the GOP presidential nomination

I am a registered Republican. The vast majority of my family are Republicans. I was raised with conservative values and like most who affiliate themselves with a party, I planned to vote for my party’s candidate. 

I could not in good conscience vote for Trump.

While I may agree with some of his policies and points of view, such as being the “most pro-life president ever” to supporting the military, I do not agree with the way he treats people or many of the decisions he makes.

From his disgusting mocking of a disabled reporter to his extremely crude “locker room talk,” Trump has been the definition of scandalous since far before he was elected. 

This leads me to the second half of my argument, I could not vote for another candidate. 

In 2016, Hillary Clinton captured the DNC nomination for presidency. While Clinton may not be as bad as Trump, she was just as untrustworthy. You can see this in her private server email scandal or her foundation taking money for corrupt reasons

I, and millions of other Americans, did not trust Clinton. Thus, I could not in good conscience vote for her. 

Then there were the third party candidates. The most popular was Gary Johnson who received 4.4 million votes in the election (Trump and Clinton both received more than 60 million). I didn’t vote for Johnson because I didn’t agree with many of his stances on topics like abortion. The same goes for Jill Stein, Evan McMullin and all of the other third party candidates that you probably forgot about three years ago.

In essence, I did not vote in the 2016 election because I did not trust or agree with any of the candidates. 

When I told friends and family members that I chose not to vote, I heard numerous negative responses. No one seemed to understand my decision to abstain from voting. 

Yet, just months earlier, I had heard a family member say this might be the first time they might not vote for a Republican candidate because of how terrible he was. But when election day came, they proceded to vote for Trump because they did not want Clinton to be elected. Numerous other Republicans did the exact same thing. This is a mistake to me.

To pick the lesser of two evils is still to pick an evil. You’re still supporting a candidate you don’t agree with. By giving them your vote, you have to live with the aftermath of all the decisions they made while in office, knowing that you supported them. 

Trump’s scandals have not ceased since he took office. If anything, they have amplified dramatically. From the Ukraine aide freeze to the Stormy Daniels hush-up, Trump has been anything but presidential in his tenure in office.

If you voted for Trump in 2016, you have to live with knowing you supported perhaps the most controversial, scandal-bound president in U.S. history. I chose not to vote for him and I chose not to vote for any other candidate. 

There weren’t any candidates I trusted or agreed with on enough important issues to support with my vote, so I didn’t.

And that’s okay. 

That’s all the reason anyone needs. If you vote for someone who you don’t trust or agree with on a majority of important issues, it’s a mistake in my opinion. People are blinded by their pride and party loyalty to a fault. 

I am confident I will hear many of the same things I heard in 2016 later this year if I again exercise my right not to vote. “If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” “If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Bernie,” or “If you vote for a third party candidate, you’re wasting your vote.”

People need to stop being blinded by party loyalty to the point where they feel like they have to vote for a candidate they don’t like or agree with. Not voting is perfectly fine. If there is a candidate you believe in, that’s wonderful, vote for them, but if you can’t find a candidate that you can get behind, you are well within your rights to choose not to vote.