Why vote Jo?

A third party vote is a wasted vote!

Don’t you know you’re voting for Trump?

You’re giving Biden the presidency by voting Jorgensen!

You’re stealing our votes!

This election is far too important — wait until the next one!

How stupid can you be?

I have heard these things and more this election season. I have heard these things during every presidential election since I voted for my first president as a sophomore in college in 2000. Some years, I do pick a major party contender. Most years, I vote my conscience. Why? The answer is simple: I am picking the candidate that best reflects my values and beliefs. I am voting for me — not my mother, sister, aunt, neighbor, friend, or colleague. I am voting for who I believe is the best option for this country. I want to sleep at night peacefully knowing that I am not betraying my belief system because of what I “should be” doing.

I am a Pennsylvanian who voted for Jo Jorgensen for president in 2020, and I don’t regret it for a second.

» READ MORE: The latest on the 2020 Election from The Philadelphia Inquirer

My grandmother immigrated to this country in the 1950s from Germany. She fled an authoritarian regime to come here so that she could have a voice. The size of that voice did not matter. All that mattered to her was that she had that voice. This was the same for many just like her. Somewhere along the line, our country has begun to lose this thought process. We are being told to “step in line” and accept the main choices given to us. The government plays a role by limiting access to elections through closed primaries, closed debates, poll exclusion, and excessive petitioning demands for third-party ballot access. This, however, is nothing compared to the attacks from our fellow citizens.

“I knew Pennsylvania was a linchpin in the election, but I couldn’t vote for either major party candidate without sacrificing my ideals.”

Adele Barone

When people tell me I am stealing votes from their candidate, I have to laugh. To steal something means that it was theirs to begin with. In this election especially, neither candidate would ever have my vote. If I did not have another choice this year, I simply would be among the nearly 50% of the country that decides it isn’t worth their time to vote. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that according to the U.S. Elections Project, 43% of eligible voters chose to abstain from voting. To break this down, 60.5 million people voted for Hillary Clinton, 60 million people voted for Donald Trump, 6.2 million people voted for another candidate, and 100 million people stayed home. One hundred million people did not vote at all, and yet there is constant hostility aimed at third-party voters who are simply voting their conscience.

» READ MORE: These Pa. voters spent 8 weeks talking to people on the other side of the aisle. The biggest surprise: How well it went. | Opinion

This year, I had someone who I could get behind in Jo Jorgensen. I could get behind a candidate that wants the federal government out of my personal business. I could get behind a candidate that wants many federally funded programs to be delegated to the states. I could get behind ending qualified immunity. I could get behind someone who believes nobody should have their constitutional rights infringed upon.

I knew she wouldn’t win the race for the presidency. But I hoped that she’d get 5%. When a party obtains 5% of the vote in a national election, they are granted minor party status by the Federal Election Committee and they will be given federal funds to aid in their campaign. The actual dollar amount depends on the number of votes. Third-party contenders typically campaign on less than $10 million total, compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars that the major parties have access to. Third-party candidates don’t have the advertising dollars, inclusion on polls, or a voice in the media. This means many people do not even know who they are. With 5% of the vote, that could change.

I’m tired of waiting for a “better election.” The Democrats and Republicans have been failing me year after year.

Year after year I see corruption, greed, and hypocrisy. Year after year I see huge portions of the population that are ignored and told to stop wasting their vote. Year after year I am told, “This is not the year.” Every year is the year to vote how you see fit. One of these years, maybe we will have an election where everyone votes how they want to vote and not how they are told to vote, and we will get a president that the majority of the people actually want in office.

This year, I voted how I saw fit. I knew Pennsylvania was a linchpin in the election, but I couldn’t vote for either major party candidate without sacrificing my ideals. I, unlike many people who solidly align with their party, would not be happy with either candidate who takes the Oval Office, so settling was not something I could do. Filling in the bubble for Jorgensen was done to make my voice heard for liberty, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The great thing about our nation is that everyone has a voice. Use that voice to speak for what you believe in — this year, next year, and every year.

Adele Barone is the owner and consultant at Bar-1 Resources in northeastern Pennsylvania. She volunteers for the Libertarian Party and advocates for independent candidates at the local and national level. She was a member of The Inquirer’s 2020 Election Roundtable.