Front view of person holding ballot paper casting vote at a polling station for election vote in black background


bout now in the biennial election cycle, you’ve heard a few thousand times the old chestnut about voting being “your civic duty.” You know the cliche: Generations of Americans died to protect your right to vote. Thus, you must cast your ballot.

I disagree.

Let me explain. Yes, much blood has been shed to protect your right to vote. And yes, I view voting as fundamental, akin to a sacred act for all of us who enjoy the benefits of democracy. 

That’s precisely why many of you ought to stay home this election and let the rest of us—who have taken the time to vet the candidates and measures on the ballot—handle it this go-round.

If voting is as important as we all seem to believe, then merely showing up isn’t good enough. 

Here I’ll quote my dad, who helped me get my first summer job in the Florida paint factory where he made a living. Every morning on the way in, he reminded me, “You’ve got to put in the effort. Showing up isn’t good enough.”

As much as I loathe the presidential choices atop the ballot in 2020, spending a few hours boning up before November 3 is not nearly as unpleasant as earning three bucks an hour to tote 50-pound bags of pigment around a dusty Miami warehouse on a humid 97-degree afternoon.

Trust me on that.

Of course, in this age of bitter partisanship and straight-ticket voting, most of you need to know nothing more than a candidate’s party to make a choice. That means you have even less work to do: All you need to study is a few nonpartisan school board races, maybe a mayoral election, a handful of ballot measures and research a few judges and justices. 

Personally, as someone with no love for either political party, I don’t mind thinking through all the races.

Probably the same goes for the other 1.3 million registered Arizona voters who chose “No Party” as their registration. Sure, it’s more work, but what are we talking about here, maybe a morning? It’s the least you can do for democracy.

At my house, the toughest choice will be the presidential race, where I continue to debate the wisdom of declaring conscientious objector status and withholding my vote entirely. 

That feels more appropriate than my other logical options: choosing Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate, who has no chance to win and whom I could not pick out of a police lineup, or writing in one of the 350 million Americans I believe would make a better president than either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

Unlike Muhammad Ali, who spent nearly four years in boxing exile and risked prison for refusing to serve in Vietnam, my conscientious objector choice would not be based on my religious beliefs. Ali, who took Cassius Clay v. the United States all the way to the Supreme Court—and won—believed fighting in the war would violate his Muslim beliefs.

Ali was stripped of his boxing license and his heavyweight title for making his stand. In 1967, an all-white jury of 10 convicted him as a draft dodger. He didn’t fight again until he knocked out Jerry Quarry in October 1970.

The greatest heavyweight of our lifetime famously proclaimed, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”

All of us should have a quarrel with a process that encourages voters simply to show up and thoughtlessly make marks on a piece of paper, thus deciding the future of our communities and country. 

Like the man said on those summer mornings years ago, put in the effort. Showing up isn’t good enough.