In the year 2000, I was an eighteen year old college freshman. Excited about my first time to vote, I dove into research about each candidate. I wanted to figure out why I was voting for a certain person. I didn't want to mark a name on a ballot. As a Florida resident living out of state for college, I was an absentee ballot voter. The candidate I voted for won my state by 537 votes. What votes were the last to be counted? The absentee ballot votes. My vote.
In the years since, people have tried to tell me and explain to me that my vote doesn't count. But, I will never forget my first time voting. My vote counted. And, my vote still counts. Sometimes my vote counts because a candidate only wins by 537 votes. And, sometimes my vote counts simply because I get to live out the freedom I have been granted in this country. I get to cast my vote simply because I was born in a country who values such freedom.
It is something I take very seriously. I am not walking in and marking a ballot down party lines. I am marking a ballot after research and prayer and an honest look at what I believe and value in the leaders of my country. For me, that means several things come into play:
- Policy: This area gets less black and white the longer I live, but on most issues, I know what I think and I know what specific candidates represent. I like to hear clear plans on addressing certain issues. There are certain policy issues that are more important than others. We can all name the issues that are non-negotiables for us and those where we can see multiple options. When looking at policy, it is also important to remember that just because a candidate agrees or disagrees with my stance on an issue doesn't mean he/she will be for or against any change in regards to legislation surrounding that issue.
Leadership: I want someone who I think leads well and demands respect. I may not agree with every choice someone in office makes. But do they carry themselves in a way that shows respect for the office and our country. Many people have said we should vote for Trump because of the policy side of things. But, as Brandon Hatmaker said recently in a post, "My concern about Trump isn't about whether or not I think he's a good Christian, it's whether or not I think he'd make a good president. I just don't think he has the moral constitution, wisdom, or posture to represent our country well in any capacity, much less our president." I want someone who can stand in the Oval Office, or walk down the streets of a tornado ravaged town, or exit the plane in the Middle East and represent our country well. I want someone who can close his mouth long enough to listen to the people who are hurting and oppressed or those who are aiming for the stars with brilliant ideas to change the future of our country. That is leadership.
Value of Humanity: Ultimately, as a Jesus follower, I am here to love people, introduce them to their Savior, and love all that He loves. My president doesn't have to be a Jesus follower. But, I must vote for a candidate who possesses the decency to think about those who have less, find ways to serve them rather than push them further away. I believe our country has learned a lot about this and yet has a long way to go. I believe that both Clinton and Trump will further delay our progress in this area. It is not simply about being pro-life or pro-choice, it is about actually moving policy and culture to think about the least of these. That is what I want my life to be about, so I am looking for a candidate that is most interested in serving the people of this great country and changing our culture when it comes to poverty, racism, sex-trafficking, and the protection of life. It will take someone bold to lead us. And, it will take courage.
Where does that leave me? I have spent hours and hours listening and reading and having conversations, and this November I am voting for Evan McMullin. We do not have to agree with every statement a candidate makes. But, I am excited about casting a vote for a man who stands for much of what I stand for. You don't have to vote for the same candidate I am voting for. But, you need to know that what you choose to do matters. No matter who you choose, your vote doesn't have to be a wasted vote. As one article said, "An unprincipled vote is the only wasted vote."
There is no perfect candidate. And, I am not a perfect voter. But, I will vote. And, my vote counts.