Voting is a great democratic institution that allows citizens to participate in government, and I plan to take advantage of that right at every opportunity. However, I do not agree with the “Get out and Vote!” campaigns. Such advertisements are run by people who want votes regardless of why they get them. But not everyone should vote.

If you have no understanding of basic issues, you should choose not to vote. If you do not know the difference between the candidates, you should choose not to vote. And, if you lack a minimal comprehension of the roles and functions of the United States government, you should choose not to vote.

Since we have this amazing right, we should not squander it if we do not know why we are voting. Everyone should equip themselves with the necessary information to make their vote most legitimate. But if people choose to not follow politics, and to ignore the issues, they should also make the choice to stay home come Election Day. This is not to say that we need a voter test or other voting restrictions, but we should encourage adults to discern if they truly should vote. Hopefully, if they realize how little they know, they will study up, and be ready to vote in the next election season.

Having the ability to vote in free and fair elections is unfortunately not as common as many people would think. There are presently 69 countries in the world that are non-democratic, meaning that citizens have a very limited area to get involved in politics. Of the remaining countries, some have dubious elections, to say the least. For example, on paper, Russia is a democracy, but in fact, Vladimir Putin has done his best to consolidate power and limit voting. According to Harvard and Stanford professors Timothy Colton and Michael McFaul, “Since Vladimir Putin became president at the beginning of 2000, democratic institutions have eroded.” Regional elections have been restricted, and more power has gone to the state. This trend is not wholly uncommon, and it needs to be addressed.

Therefore, we are very fortunate to live in a country that has arguably the best voting system in the world. Certainly there is room for debate, especially concerning the Electoral College and the primary system, but American citizens still enjoy unrivaled political freedom. So next time you decide to go to the polls, think about how valuable that right is and do not take it for granted. And most importantly, be serious about your votes. No matter who you choose to vote for, make sure you understand who they are and why they deserve your vote.