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I’m voting for Gary Johnson. My vote is a message of dissent.

Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Both major party candidates in this election are unusually unpopular. Young people in particular are unenthusiastic about Trump and Clinton — polling earlier in the election suggested that somewhere between 15 and 44 percent of millennials were planning to vote for a third-party candidate.

We wanted to hear from these young voters who are dissatisfied with both Trump and Clinton and have decided to vote third party. Here is a 21-year-old explaining why she's voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson. See also our story from a 21-year-old Green Party voter.

I grew up in a house with lots of guns.

My dad, who comes from several generations of gun owners, has always enjoyed collecting and owning firearms. It’s become a tool and a hobby for him, one that comes with political implications. When I was growing up, the whole family would often go shooting on my grandparents’ farm, where we’d set up and practice hitting targets. My uncle would often hunt and fend off coyotes and hawks from our farm animals. We keep a collection of guns and different types of bullets in a safe in our house.

My parents have instilled in me a deep loyalty in the right to bear arms. I’m not a gun owner myself yet, and to be honest, my passion for the Second Amendment has less to do with the guns themselves and much more with the philosophy behind the right to own one. To me, the issue is a metaphor for big government in general.

As a believer in small government, I’m voting this year for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. I’m a 21-year-old first-time voter in the swing state of Ohio, and in this election, my vote represents a protest. It’s a way for me to voice my bone-deep distaste for both candidates, and to send a message to Washington that they can’t expect us to all fall into line when they offer such abysmal choices. They need to do better, and it’s our responsibility to tell them that.

Gun rights and small government are extremely important to me

I’m from a small town east of Cleveland and currently attend Ohio State University. I grew up in a very political household, where dinner conversations were often saturated with current events and politics. On the political spectrum, my family is very mixed, which helped me develop my own political beliefs. But gun rights is an issue that has always had a strong impact on me.

There's a quote from Charles de Montesquieu that sums up how I feel: “Unnecessary laws weaken the necessary laws.” I’m scared of gratuitous restrictions that take away our guns, which to me are a symbol of our power as citizens. I don’t want “we the people” to keep handing over our individual rights to a powerful centralized government. While I understand that the individual gun control policies proposed by Democrats do not include literally rounding up firearms from individual homes, I fear that even small gun restrictions will just give way to bigger limitations down the line. I’m scared of a slippery slope to ever-more-infringing laws.

It’s one big reason I simply can’t vote for Clinton. Her threats to increase gun control, along with the threat of appointing a liberal Supreme Court justice who might reinterpret the Second Amendment, are just too big of a risk to me. And that’s just the beginning. Every new scandal she is involved in, from the State Department emails to her private Wall Street speeches unveiled by WikiLeaks, smacks of the corruption of the powerful. Her desire for secrecy, her “private position and public position” — all of her actions embody the corruptive, corrosive risk of handing over increased power to our elected officials.

Trump’s comments on women disgust me

I really can’t get past Trump’s offensive and impulsive comments.

His comments and behavior are abhorrent, racist, sexist, and clearly the actions of a bully. His latest tapes where he bragged about his ability to grope women because of his fame were incredibly gross. I was equally disgusted by his 3 am tweet attempting to shame Alicia Machado by encouraging the public to look up an alleged sex tape. It’s not okay to say these kinds of things.

I watched a video that cut together footage of all of Trump’s comments about women, calling them pigs, calling them fat, making sexually suggestive comments, and reducing them to their looks. I couldn’t help but feel worried about young girls in our country today who would have to endure more of these comments coming from a man serving in our country’s highest office. Trump does not respect women.

Even though the content of these kinds of statements is deeply troubling, the thing that is most concerning about them is the impulsiveness they reveal in Trump. He can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. The role of the president of the United States is to encourage our country in bad times and emergencies, and to represent our nation to other world leaders, and Trump's attitude and terrible demeanor would not fly with either of those tasks. I’m afraid of more stray and potentially dangerous comments. He is deeply embarrassing, and I believe we would lose and have already lost the respect of other countries by having him come so close to our highest office.

A conservative party that doesn’t represent me

It’s an interesting time in our country to be a Republican. Early on in this election, I supported Marco Rubio for the conservative ticket; despite my misgivings with some of his social policies, he seemed like a generally good guy. But now that Trump has taken over, I feel even more distaste for my party’s choices. How could they have let someone with such bigoted and hateful language come to represent small-government, conservative values in our country today?

I sometimes worry that the Republicans’ more socially conservative, deeply religious stances will further alienate me and voters of my generation. As a gay woman, I was really bothered by the Republicans’ staunch stance against same-sex marriage in the past. I’m also a Christian, but I just don’t see a place for far-right-leaning religious rhetoric in our government policies. These institutions need to stay separate.

More and more, I see myself aligning with the Libertarian Party. I’m really attracted to their pragmatic, mind-your-own-business-and-stay-out-of-people’s-way philosophy toward governing. I see them as the only political party with real hope for compromise and getting things done in a government afflicted with gridlock.

I like where Johnson stands on social issues, such as gay rights and guns, while also supporting his responsible fiscal spending and lower tax policy. He seems like a genuinely likable and nice guy, which is important.

I also really like Johnson’s views on immigration, which are to expand our work visa options and let even more immigrants into the country legally to work, spend, and contribute to our economy. Immigrants are what have always made this country great, and so many of us descend from immigrants, whether generations ago or recently. Trump’s hateful rhetoric about them stealing our jobs is just untrue and unhelpful.

Older voters seem the most bothered by my decision

I don’t face much stigma from my peers for voting for Johnson. Most of them are liberal, and even though most of my friends will likely vote With Her, they understand how I could never fall in line with either candidate. I think it’s because so many of them were for Bernie Sanders early on in the election, a period of time when my campus seemed to be covered in Feel the Bern signs. Clinton was just never their first choice, so I think they understand the idealism of a third-party vote.

Older voters are the most critical of my choice. I’ve gotten into so many arguments with my family about the topic. They’ll tell me I’m too young to understand that it’s useless to vote for a candidate who will likely not win. A lot of times, my dad will bring up Ross Perot and tell me that even one of the most successful third-party candidates in recent history wasn’t able to win.

I understand that Johnson has little to no chance of becoming president, but I need to use my voice to tell our government that we need to change the way things are done. If everyone who thinks like me does the same, using their vote against the current party system, the Libertarian Party will have a chance at becoming the future of conservative political thought in our future. My vote is a message of dissent.

— as told to Karen Turner

Stephanie Page is studying public administration and education policy at the Ohio State University. She spends time studying, serving on the executive board for CURE — a student organization focused on sustainable medicine in developing countries — and interning for the state of Ohio in fiscal administration. Find her on Instagram here.

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