Yes, you do have an obligation to vote:

March 20, 2020

Voting has always been important to my family. My grandparents taught my mom that voting was her civic duty and honor, and that’s what my mom taught me. But in today’s political climate, people seem to disregard the importance of their vote and choose to abstain from voting altogether when their candidate of choice drops out.

To me, that mentality is not only impractical, but misguided.

Now, I want to be clear about one thing. No one should ever be shamed for their decision to vote or not to vote. Whether or not someone wants to vote is up to them, and it’s not my place to judge. And really, vote-shaming accomplishes nothing besides alienating potential voters, and perhaps dissuading them from voting again in the future.

But that being said, I strongly believe that you should vote, even if your preferred candidate drops out of the race. This is how the people of the United States pick a new leader. Why shouldn’t each and every capable American be a part of that process?

By abstaining from voting, you’re not making a statement. You’re choosing to stay silent. People don’t go out to vote for all sorts of reasons; political dissatisfaction being one of many possibilities. For all the government knows, you could be sick, working or just plain lazy. Politicians don’t know anything about what you believe in if you choose not to vote.

The best way to make a statement to your government is to vote. By voting, you’re actively using your voice in a way that politicians can recognize and use as feedback for their future actions, whether that’s as your president, a member of Congress, or in four years, if they decide to run for president again.

More importantly, though, is that you’ll have to live with the outcome of the election. Regardless of your actions, a leader will be picked from the pool of candidates. You might as well have some say in who it is, even if it isn’t your first choice or even if you don’t particularly like any of the candidates. At the end of the day, there has to be one candidate who you like the most, or at least dislike the least. And that’s the candidate you should vote for. What else could you conscientiously do? Allow someone you think is going to be worse for the country to become our president, just because the person you thought was best is no longer an option?

At some point, your first choice might cease to be an option, and you’ll have to choose what you think would be the next best option. Although that’s not ideal, that’s the reality of the situation. Personally, I’d prefer the better of two evils, and my vote will reflect what I deem to be the best choice, given the options available.

And that’s not to say that you should always follow party lines. Even as a Democrat myself, the recent sentiment “just vote blue” is upsetting. If your original preferred candidate and the candidate you vote for of the remaining options are in the same party, that’s fine. And if they’re in different parties, that’s also fine. Because you should be voting off what you believe in, not party lines. If how you vote happens to align with a certain party, so be it, but if your vote is based solely off party lines, it might be time to reevaluate how you vote.

So this coming election, I urge you to vote. Even if your preferred candidate is out, vote. Exercise your ability to communicate to your government what you believe in, what you want, and who you want for president. Vote.

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