"I Voted" Sticker

Election day is less than one week away. Many of us have been dreading (or maybe praying for?) Nov. 8’s arrival for quite some time, so that we may finally be put out of the misery that has been this presidential election cycle, even as we are deeply troubled by the possible outcome.

Even though the past year has been an incredibly disappointing time for American politics, we should all still be willing to do the one thing that is expected from us this year: vote. No matter how tightly we have to pinch our noses, we have a decision to make on Tuesday.

In the past few weeks, I have been gravely disappointed by some greatly respected names in politics deciding that they would not be voting for a candidate on the presidential ballot this year, such as Gov. John Kasich and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. If people like these men can give up and write in a non-candidate for president, then why should I be burdened with the task of casting a vote this year?

For months, we have heard the statement that to vote in this election is to decide who is the lesser of two evils. This is an unfair characterization, and one that makes it seem as if any vote is a bad or worthless decision.

Yes, both candidates are deeply flawed, one more explicitly than the other, but the likelihood of one of them becoming commander-in-chief is nearly certain, so why discard your say in the matter?

Some may be so afraid of making the wrong decision that they choose not to make that decision at all. We need to be more courageous than that. We cannot let the fear of enabling the wrong candidate push us to abandon our right, and our responsibility, to vote. It might be a tough call for some voters, but the toughest decisions are those which demand to be made.

A great number of voters have felt disenfranchised or forgotten during this election cycle. Between allegations of Bernie Sanders being unfairly treated by the Democratic National Committee, to the fact that only a minority of Republican primary voters chose Trump as the nominee, to the media’s biased treatment of Gary Johnson, it is easy to feel that other powers have taken the reigns from the American people during this election cycle.

All of that may be true, but just because a situation might feel unfair, does not mean we should throw in the towel and resign from our civic duty? Regardless of what circumstances have led to the selection of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the major choices on Election Day, we still have a say in who will win. In fact, those who choose to vote are the only ones who have a say.

It is safe to say that the controversy in this presidential election transcends party lines. We are beyond disagreeing about the issues; we are at a war of scandals and personalities. Many of us may have lost the right to vote for a candidate that we legitimately like, but we have not lost the right to vote for the candidate that comes closest to representing either your political preferences or who you think will best lead this nation through the next four years.

This election has become a punchline, but that does not mean that we cannot still salvage from this a choice that we can to some extent defend. Whether you make your decision on Tuesday on the basis of the candidates’ experience, character, temperament or just to follow party lines, it is important that you throw your hat into the ring. There are millions of voters who will walk into the voting booths next week that will only be half sure that they are making the right call, but we all have that right, and we should exercise it.

You do not have to be 100 percent behind a candidate in order to use your best judgement at the ballot box. Voting is not necessarily about support. It is about guaranteeing that you are represented by your government by making a judgement call. You need to exercise your civic duty and play your part in shaping the future of our country.