5 reasons you should register to vote even if you hate both presidential candidates

You’d think the many millennials around the nation who weren’t eligible to vote before this Nov. 8 would be just a bit more excited than they are. But age was a decisive factor in how Americans chose their candidates this election season, and Bernie Sanders, the candidate a majority of millennials supported according to Harvard research released earlier this year, isn’t on the ballot. Donald Trump is an ignorant bigot, Hillary Clinton is honestly pretty shady, and it’s understandable that many Americans aren’t super pumped about rocking the vote. That being said, there’s still endless reasons to register to vote even if you hate both presidential candidates.

People who supported a candidate other than Clinton or Trump during the primaries were often told that voting for their guy was a futile move, or a “waste of a vote,” given how inevitable Hillary Clinton’s candidacy appeared from the start. Now, however, a bit more than a month ahead of the general election, Clinton’s image of inevitability is dangerous. The whole “Hillary or Trump exclusively” voting mindset has left a lot of progressive-leaning individuals who would really rather not vote for her — either because they think they don’t have to or because they flat-out think she’s the same evil as Donald Trump — feeling like they might not even vote at all.

There’s very much a sizable chunk of American voters who feel something akin to “I have profound, fundamental, and insurmountable problems with both Trump and Clinton and can therefore not — in good conscience and in keeping with what I believe our democracy to be about — cast a vote for either of them.”

So what are these people to do? Sit out on exercising a right that they might very well want to use? Vote for someone they aren’t crazy about (or even abjectly fear and loathe)? Vote for a third-party candidate despite the overwhelming “you’re wasting your vote and furthermore actively contributing to putting someone evil in office” narrative?

Oh, I hope you weren’t expecting a clear answer here. Alright, we’ll give it a try. Here’s the best we can come up with:

Hold onto your right to vote. Make sure you’re registered. If you find a way to exercise that right that feels constructive and good to you, do it. Remember that state and local elections have exponentially more impact on individual lives and communities and the fabric of the country we live in than the presidency and the circus that surrounds electing someone to do that job. Do the work of getting to know local and state candidates and understanding how our elected government operates on the ground floor. 

But above, don’t surrender your right to vote. Keep in the game. It doesn’t mean you have to get off the bench for every single play.

Aside from how low voter turnout will likely disproportionately help Trump (which hey, all facts, and definitely one thing to consider when deciding whether or not to vote, and for whom), not considering the presidential candidates for just a moment, here’s why you should register to vote anyway.

Ballot measures

The year leading up to election day involves activists in every state putting together petitions, gathering hundreds of thousands of signers, to get certain measures on the ballots. California and four other states will be voting on full marijuana legalization. Colorado will be voting on universal healthcare.

State-wide change is important, and you can read about what your state will be voting on here. Do your research, and vote for the change you’d like to see in your state.

State representation

GOP Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Holds Primary Night Gathering In Houston, Texas

If you find yourself wondering how states end up getting represented by the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz or former Missouri Rep and “legitimate rape” theorist Todd Akin, sure, it could be because some states tend to lean right, but it could also be because low voter turnout tends to heed Republican victories. Senators and members of the House have the political power to pass or vote against legislation on gun control and all kinds of issues that are important to you.

By not voting for whose values best represent yours, you’d be sort of kind of complicit in enabling an NRA and oil company-dominated Congress, and the rabidly anti-choice Ted Cruzes of the world.

You’re paying taxes

voting booth
CREDIT: Cristina Quicler/Getty Images

With just about everything you buy, you’re paying taxes. As a citizen contributing to society, voting on how you’d like to be governed and who by is one tangible perk you get to enjoy for every time you have to pay taxes for your tampons, which, FYI, is ridiculous. You might as well get to choose what you’d like those taxes to go toward.

What if everyone shared your mentality?

Understandably, plenty of Americans often look at politicians campaigning and feel like mere bystanders in the political process. The influx of money in politics, after all, makes the whole “one man, one vote” model feel dubious. One, single vote might not change the outcome of an election, but hundreds of thousands of people sharing this mentality will.

Think of voting as holding public officials accountable

California Turns out to Vote
CREDIT: Irfan Khan/Getty Images

If you don’t like your incumbent senator, or they’ve endorsed Donald Trump and are clearly bigoted or unconcerned with the needs of marginalized Americans, don’t just let them slide. Voting is the ultimate way of holding public officials accountable, whereas not voting is precisely what enables their bullshit to continue.

There are huge differences between Trump and Clinton

I know some of you don’t want to hear this, especially if this election has compelled you to identify with a third party. Donald Trump would obviously be a disaster for just about every marginalized group in America, socially and economically and in every conceivable way, and his communication with world leaders would make America into a laughingstock.

Meanwhile, Clinton has a record of military interventionism, accepting money from private prisons and the fossil fuel industry, supported “welfare reform” that was disproportionately detrimental to poor women of color, was historically pretty homophobic, and, today, remains suspiciously close to big banks and economic elites.

But that being said, there exist fundamental differences between Clinton and Trump, and while, theoretically, in a perfect world, third parties would be viable and Americans would have wider selection, clearly, this isn’t a perfect world. No one urging you to vote Clinton is suggesting the two-party system is perfect, but there’s simply too much at stake in terms of Trump and Clinton’s differences — on abortion rights, immigration, policing, climate change, gun control, workplace inequality, racial justice, and in terms of governing experience and likely SCOTUS nominations — to ignore reality for a mere claim to moral superiority.

As Sanders has so eloquently put it himself in a recent interview with The Nation:

“The point is not to say that we love Hillary Clinton or that we agree with her on all of the issues. The goal is to go above that and ask: Which candidate will do a better job for middle-class and working-class families? I think the answer is obvious.”

You can register to vote online here, or in this very post, right below this text (the future is now, guys). And find your polling place for this Nov. 8, here.