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Like many college students, I was excited to receive my absentee ballot in my tiny campus mailbox. 2016 marks my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. While I was a big supporter of Romney in 2012, I was unable to support him at the polls. As a politically interested individual, I have been looking forward to voting for president.  You can understand the nagging doubt I began to feel inside when I bubbled in the open circle next to a third party presidential candidate and sent away my ballot.

I’ve known I was a Republican since 2004.  At nine years old, I voted in my elementary school election for a second term for George W Bush. I don’t know what compelled me. No one in my family was particularly political.  I don’t remember political conversations around the dinner table.  I knew my mother was voting for John Kerry. I think she might have had a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker on her car. Maybe I was just raised in a small, rural, religious area, but I voted for Bush.  As I grew more educated, I grew more and more conservative. By the time I got to an extremely liberal college, Yale, I was basically the campus right-wing nut job.  That’s why it comes as a shock to so many that I used my first presidential vote for a third party candidate who has a slim chance of winning a single state, let alone the White House.

Let me start by making a bold statement. I do not believe you should vote in opposition. You should not vote for Trump because you hate Clinton nor should you vote for Clinton because you hate Trump. You should only vote for a candidate because of that candidate, their history, and their policy promises.

Therefore, I knew early on I could never vote for Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I cannot support a candidate that threatens the way of life of my hometown, that does not value life in its most innocent form, and that oversaw detrimental and dangerous foreign policy decisions. I do not oppose Clinton because of her gender, her marriage, or her handling of any particular scandal. Hillary Clinton does not represent my ideology. That alone is why she did not get my vote.

Though I whole-heartedly supported another candidate in the primary process, I was not a rider on the #NeverTrump train. I gave him a chance.  For several moments, it seemed that Trump matched some of my ideological beliefs, though not all of them. But then, the next week, we would not be on the same page. Trump’s positions were ever-changing.  Some of them even stood in direct opposition to my personal beliefs.  I did not feel confident that he would truly bring conservative ideals to the White House. I do not oppose Trump because of his tax returns, his marriages, or any comments he may or may not have said. I do not support Trump because I cannot say with any certainty what a Trump presidency will be like.  I want to throw my support behind a candidate that holds my beliefs and that I can trust to stick to them.

I wanted my first presidential vote to be for a candidate I agreed with ideologically. I did not want to cast my first presidential vote for the lesser or two evils, or the shinier of two turds. To my surprise, I found my candidate listed as a third party on my ballot.  That was the vote I cast.

I am fully aware that many will say I threw away my vote. Four years ago, I probably would have said the same thing about a third party voter. But frankly, I thought about it deeply, and I realized my vote really won’t make a difference this year. I vote in my home state of Kentucky, which, according to FiveThirtyEight, has about a 4% chance of giving its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton. My vote for a third party candidate, in Kentucky, was not going to ruin the chance of either candidate. My vote for a third party was not because I don’t want to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, though I don’t. My vote was not because I don’t want to see Donald Trump in the White House, though it raises concerns with me. My vote was for a candidate who I agree with ideologically and who has policy proposals that make me hopeful. Will he win? Not a chance in hell. Will I be proud to have voted for him? Certainly.

This election year has put many of us in places we never imagined we would be. Do not let anyone shame you into voting for a candidate, but that being said, vote in support, not in opposition. Don’t cast a vote for someone, on any level, because you hate their opponent. If you cannot say confidently that you support a candidate’s positions and think they will serve the community well, then don’t vote for them. Find a candidate you can support. Your heart will thank you.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member