Four years ago, as an 18-year-old and freshman in college, I had my first opportunity to vote in an election. I remember how my excitement was crushed when I realized my options were Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I struggled to accept that I would have to vote for a candidate that I didn’t fully believe in.

I found myself asking, “Why do I have to vote for the lesser of two evils?” I knew I would never vote for Trump, but as a registered democrat I couldn’t justify voting for Clinton either. When it came to election day, I had made my decision. I wasn’t going to vote for either candidate because, to me, they didn’t deserve my vote. That’s a decision I regret to this day. 

At one point or another, I think we’ve all questioned whether our individual vote matters. Looking at our nation as a whole, it’s difficult to know if one single vote could alter an election. I might be an idealist with this response, but what people don’t realize is your vote isn’t just one vote. It represents more than your chosen candidate. 

Your vote is your voice, your beliefs and your hopes for our nation. It is a representation of what you aspire to achieve in society and can inspire others that surround you. A candidate doesn’t need to deserve your vote for you to participate in an election. You, yourself, deserve that vote because it’s your right as a citizen and it is a symbol of what matters to you. 

I didn’t realize the importance of my vote during the last election. By not voting for president, I not only helped Trump get elected, but I allowed someone who went against everything I fundamentally believe to become president. Instead of voting for someone who shared some of my goals, I didn’t vote and someone who completely goes against my values is leading our country. 

I have been haunted by my lack of participation in the 2016 election. I often think of the thousands of people who might still be alive if someone else was in office during COVID-19. I wonder if George Floyd, Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor would already have justice if someone else was in office. I wonder if my rights as a woman, the rights of LGBTQ+ people and people of color would not be constantly threatened if someone else was in office. I wonder if I voted, and others who were on the fence voted, if someone else would be in office. I can’t prove that my vote would have made a difference in any of these occurrences, but I have to believe it could have. 

With that I urge you to vote, whether you’re a democrat, republican or independent. Value your beliefs and goals for our nation enough to fight for them. My vote matters and your vote matters, because when we come together the ripple effect our voices have, can change not only an election but the nation. 

Bailey Kormick is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Bailey by emailing her at bk399015@ohio.edu.