Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders.

Those are the three names that have been drilled into our minds for the past few months. With less than a year until the presidential elections, the heat is on for the candidates to round up as many followers as possible. As a fellow Millennial, I pose one simple question to you: Are you doing everything you can to be politically active and make an informed decision in the 2016 presidential election?

I have no intention of swaying you in any political direction, but you need to stay informed.

Harvard’s Institute of Politics has conducted many surveys, and through extensive research, they have determined that only about 36% of Millennials trust the president to “do the right thing” and only about 18% trust Congress to “do the right thing” (Weiss). As a fellow Millennial, I understand the issue at hand. We have grown up in a highly informed society, where every publicly-accessible action of the government is at our fingertips. When something happens at seven in the morning, we have it in our notifications by eight that same morning.  Everyone, including the government and public officials, have mishaps. So how do we get past the political shenanigans and begin to make an informed decision on our right to vote?

The easiest way is to start with major topics, such as marriage, global warming, gun control, taxation and education, etc. If you can find your stance on the biggest topics, you can begin to navigate your journey through the turmoil of politics.

But how, even when you have done your research and analyzed appropriately, do you get past the societal prejudices that all Millennials are “least likely to vote”? (Rampell).  Generations before us continuously presume ignorance and incompetence when it comes to Millennials. How do we, as college students and fellow Millennials, fight past this preposterous stereotype for ineptitude?

You vote, that’s how. It’s not a loud stance, but when you step into that booth on voting day, you have taken a stance for what you believe in. If you never vote in your life, you essentially revoke your one-sided opinion on politics. Because if you don’t become an active member in politics, you don’t have any say in what is being done in the world of politics.

Politics is messy, that’s for sure. It’s lopsided, cruel and ultimately driven by money. But no matter how insignificant you feel your vote is, it is never nearly as unimportant as you think. Every vote counts.

With the election fast approaching (yes, 10 months is quick to the forefront), it is essential that all American citizens with the right to vote use that right to make their mark on history. It may seem insignificant, but in reality, every vote always has and always will count.

In the past year, Millennial turnout has hit record lows. A common narrative is that Millennials were so caught up in the ideals of hope and change that when the presidency went full-fold they became disillusioned in those hopes and changes. In polls, Millennials say they trust almost no authority figure to do the right thing most or all of the time: not Congress, not the president, not the Supreme Court, not the media, not Wall Street and definitely not federal, state or local government.

How do you, a metaphorical pawn in the political system of the United States, engage your constitutional right to vote? Well, you need to start by registering. If you are a student at Gannon, the easiest way is to register at the IgKnight activities fair during Preview GU in August. If you have missed that opportunity and are a Pennsylvania resident, go to the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles, where you can register to vote. The same goes for every state within the United States.

Personally, I registered during the IgKnight Fair of my freshman year so that I would have the convenience of voting in Zurn during election day. If you register in Erie, you will have the same opportunity. The act of voting takes a mere ten minutes, but the act of making an informed decision should take at least a couple of hours, if not days or weeks.

Voting for a future leader, whether it be at a city, state or national level, is a highly important decision that takes full attention to the information at hand.

But how is this important and why should you vote?

Millennials are a HUGE part of the voting population. The trouble is, not many Millennials feel compelled to vote. Those that don’t feel compelled to vote are swayed by dishonesty and incongruity among the national government as well as the local governments.

If you are one of the potential voters who are hesitant based on political dishonesty, focus on the best the government has to offer. If you feel privacy is threatened due to the NSA scandal, remember that our political leaders are working day and night to protect our freedom.

We are quick to judge and criticize, but if we had to live even one day in a country with political instability and misguided political decisions, we would soon realize that the United States has a lot to offer. Use your vote to matter in the strongest way possible. Vote in every election you possibly can. If you never vote, you need to re-evaluate your complaints about the government, because if you don’t vote, you have effectively shown that you don’t care if you have a say in governmental outcome.

Yes, we are just common college students. But we are millions when we stand together nationally. We are not just a voice to be squelched. If you want your voice heard, vote. Vote and tell you friends to vote. Election day is fast approaching. It may be in November, but that is faster than you may realize. Soon, we will all be voting to determine the leader for this nation of dreamers and hard workers.

Do your research. Do your time on news websites and in print newspapers. Soak your brain in political turmoil. It is frustrating and will definitely boil your blood, but if you don’t let that blood boil, you will forfeit the fundamental rights of the American- to speak, defend and embrace the rights of our nation’s people.