There are articles written by intelligent, educated people arguing that it does not make sense to vote. The argument goes something like this: Even in a close election that is decided by a handful of votes, a single vote will only increase or decrease the margin of victory by exactly one vote. So the time, effort, and gasoline that you spend registering to vote, getting informed about the candidates, and casting a ballot are ultimately wasted because your vote did not change the outcome.
Some argue that if you do not vote, you have no right to complain. Yet there is no legislation prohibiting nonvoters from complaining. Should police officers check voter registrations of protesters? You have a constitutionally protected right to complain about anything you want, but it certainly hurts your credibility if you did not do anything to prevent or correct the situation that you are protesting.
Voting is only one part of the democratic process. It’s how we keep score. Talking with your friends, family, and Internet trolls about the candidates and issues is more important than the simple act of voting. But when you tell your circle about how its important to oppose or support a particular candidate or policy, it carries more weight when you vote. You cannot expect others to care when you do not vote.
Ultimately it boils down to symbolism, which matters more than one might think. Symbols show that you care, and influence others to care as well. If you’re willing spend $20 on a flag to show you care, take the time to fill out a form and press a few buttons for the same reason.