In the 2016 Presidential Election, the great divide between the Republicans and Democrats has many voters running to pick a side. I am not one of them.

I’ve never understood why anyone would choose to register as a member of one of the two-party system teams. While it makes sense to want to be a part of a party that you share a lot of the same ideals with, what if you disagree on even one of them? What if you don’t like that year’s selected candidate(s)? What if you like the enemy party’s candidate more? But these questions may all arise from growing up in a household where both parents are Independent voters.

I don’t want to feel like my vote is owned by one group, but this tug-o-war election seems to have forced many people’s hands. This “war” has also made many voters look down upon anyone who chooses not to vote for their beloved candidate – including those who plan to vote third party.

Throughout the last year, and even before, when asked who I was voting for I would often respond, “I’m not sure, but I’m leaning towards a third-party candidate.” This response generally produced outrage from the other, lashing out because any vote not for their candidate was predetermined to be a “waste” in their opinion. And yet, isn’t the only waste not voting at all? These encounters have led me to truly ponder whether a vote given to neither of the main party candidates is like casting a name into the void.

In an article from the Foundation for Economic Education, or FEE, it is noted that a third-party candidate has never won a presidential election. And yet, “it is mathematically possible for a third party to win,” (FEE). The widespread belief that only someone from the two main parties can win in a presidential election, or any election for that matter, is only true if we allow it to be. Meaning if the majority of the country voted third party, then we could finally see options beyond the Republicans and Democrats.

With allegedly only two parties to choose from, the Republicans and Democrats are forced to take widely different stances on the big issues in our society. But with the acceptance of other parties as having equal opportunity, there would be more room for a spectrum of candidates who range from extremely conservative to extremely moderate and every point in between to gain a foothold in the American public. This spectrum is what gives me hope for future elections.

Additionally, just because a vote is made for a candidate who is not likely to win does not mean that it does not have an impact.

One historical example of such an impact can be found in former President Theodore Roosevelt. While he had already served two terms, after seeing how William Howard Taft handled his first term as president he was motivated to provide a third option for voters in the 1912 presidential election. Roosevelt left the Republican Party to form the Progressive Party (a third party) in March of 1912, according to NCM, as he “hope[d] to persuade undecided delegates to vote for him.”

Though Woodrow Wilson won the election, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party was able to secure second place. His decision to go third party allowed voters to vote not for the enemy of their enemy, but rather to possibly find hope in another platform that was not previously available to them – something I believe should be presented and respected in every election, especially this one.

The great divide in this election has finally sent many voters like myself in search of their best fit in a third party, such as the Libertarians and the Green Party. But I don’t want to see such a rise in the popularity of third party candidates be solely present in elections where many feel that they have run out of options. Rather, this supported variety should be integral in every election – if only to force the two main parties to adopt similar platforms.

Going off the beaten path does not mean that any citizen’s vote is a waste; instead, it demonstrates a choice to participate even though your candidate may only have a small chance at victory. It means making a statement against not one but both candidates. It means having the right to choose without being forced to pick.

Too often, rigorous supporters of one of the two main parties are concerned with the math behind each vote. They view a vote for any candidate but their own to be a minus vote for their candidate, rather than a plus for another. Yet one vote alone is unlikely to sway an entire election against one candidate. Still, each vote should be cast with the intentionality of moving politics in the direction that the individual supports. Votes are not simply numbers to be counted, but statements to be heard – whether they end up going to the winner or not.

For one vote is just that, but they all count.