by Maddie Aiken
Some Americans consider voting to be a duty.
Brad McGowan, however, describes it as a “futility.”
At age 39, McGowan, a leadership development consultant for the American Automobile Association, has never voted and never plans to. The Colorado Springs resident said he feels it’s a “waste of time” to go through the process when he believes one vote doesn’t matter.
“Tell me an election where it’s come down to one vote. Tell me an election where it’s been a tie in an area where I’ve lived and I’d say, ‘Oh, you got me,’” McGowan said.
If he were to vote, McGowan said he believes his voice would not matter. In Colorado, there were just over 4 million registered voters as of April 2020. This puts McGowan with roughly 472,000 adults from Colorado who aren’t registered to vote.
As the 2020 presidential election approaches, many Americans are deciding whom to cast their ballot for — incumbent President Donald Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
However, not all Americans plan to head to their nearest polling place on Nov. 3.
In fact, close to half of the population may not vote.
In 2016, 43 percent of potential voters — or over 100 million people — didn’t vote.
Those who don’t plan on voting in 2020 have been characterized as lazy or apathetic by some. The reasons that people don’t vote, however, can be more complicated.
Penn State student Jack Fitzpatrick is registered to vote and has voted for local politicians. However, the 19-year-old said he likely won’t vote for a president come November.
The freshman — who plans to major in either supply chain or finance and lives near Reading, Pennsylvania — is registered as a Republican, though he said he considers himself more libertarian.
The two candidates he supported — businessman Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — are out of the race, and he said he will not vote for Trump or Biden.
If he were to vote, Fitzpatrick said he’d most likely vote for a Green Party candidate, though he said he “probably won’t.”
In 2016, over 8.7 million people were registered to vote in Pennsylvania. However, only 6.1 Pennsylvanians voted in the 2016 presidential election, meaning about 2.6 registered voters stayed home on Election Day.
Fitzpatrick’s “hot button issue” is health care, and he hasn’t seen Trump or Biden do much for the “millions of people who are underinsured and the tens of thousands of people who die because they don’t have insurance every year.”
However, he explained that the “number one reason” why he won’t vote for Trump or Biden is the sexual assault allegations made against both men.
“It’s hard for me to choose the lesser of two evils when they’re both not very good people,” he said.
This sentiment regarding the “lesser of two evils” was echoed by Penn State junior Sam Roberts, who said he doesn’t think there is a “lesser” between Trump and Biden.
Roberts, a 20-year-old studying advertising from Duxbury, Massachusetts, also doesn’t plan on voting in 2020. Roberts considers himself a moderate, though he said he was more liberal in high school.
Roberts has never voted. He was too young to vote in the 2016 presidential election and said he “doesn’t care enough” to vote in non-presidential elections.
Roberts said he doesn’t plan on voting in 2020 because he doesn’t think either candidate “is a good representation of what we are as America.”
Though he said the economy was “running well” under Trump before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, he said he doesn’t like Trump and his “antics.”
Additionally, he said he believes Biden is not a good candidate, citing the sexual assault allegations and the fact that he thinks Biden “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
There are currently about 4.6 million registered voters in Massachusetts. Roberts is one of about 950,000 people over the age of 18 who are not registered to vote in the state.
Roberts described both the Republican and Democratic parties as “morally corrupt.” He said he does not believe either party serves the people as well as they could.
McGowan, a Penn State alumnus, said both major political parties are “competing with things” he likes to do.
McGowan said one of the most important things in his life is spending time outdoors, where he enjoys hunting and fishing.
These hobbies could be negatively affected by either party, in McGowan’s eyes. Though McGowan supports gun control for automatic weapons, he said Democrats could limit his ability to purchase hunting ammunition and firearm accessories.
Meanwhile, he said Republicans cause him to worry about his access to national parks and forests, as he said they want to sell off the land.
McGowan added he wonders where the “leaders of character” are in today’s political climate. He believes today’s politicians are “tainted” by the current political system and “swayed” by political promises and big businesses.
To Fitzpatrick, the biggest problem with the current political system lies in the voters. He is frustrated by people who “don’t pay attention to both sides” and vote for the same party no matter what.
He provided examples of “moderate Democrats” turning a blind eye to Biden’s sexual assault allegations and Republicans “being ridiculous” about the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision not to vote can elicit backlash from those who do vote. McGowan said his friends and family often give him a hard time about his choice not to vote. They tell him that it’s his obligation to vote, that he can’t say anything about politics if he doesn’t vote, and that he’s wasting his voice by not voting.
However, he pointed out that he doesn’t try to convince others not to vote.
“If you feel like you’re doing your civic duty [by voting] and it makes you feel good, then it’s worth doing,” he said. “But if you realize it’s just exercising a futility and it’s not going to change an election and you’re OK with that, your time might be better suited doing something else.”
On the other hand, Roberts and Fitzpatrick have not told people they don’t intend to vote. Both said their friends wouldn’t really care about their decision — but their families would.
“I know for a fact if I tell my parents I’m not going to vote they’ll be pissed,” said Roberts, who described his parents as politically left-leaning.
He said he might tell them he voted even though he didn’t.
Fitzpatrick said he hasn’t told his family he doesn’t plan on voting because his family members are all “hardcore Trump supporters” and they would “freak out.”
However, he stands by his belief that someone shouldn’t have to vote if they don’t like any of the candidates.
“I don’t think you should have to vote for somebody you don’t like,” he said. “I think that’s the problem with politics today, is that people are so forced, especially by their parents, into voting for whoever their parents want to see win. I think that’s a huge problem.”