Voting is one of the most divisive issues among those who would consider themselves libertarian (and more so for anarchists). Many, like Stefan Molyneux of old, think that voting is a useless attempt at begging the powers that be to scale back slightly in their control over your life and return to you a few scraps of liberty, and thus it is a better choice to stay home on election day to save time and dignity. Other non-voters (such as StormCloudsGathering) think that refusing to vote is an act of defiance and shows a lack of trust in the system.
Others argue that voting is an act of aggression. That to vote for a candidate is to attempt to push your opinions on others through law.
My position is that voting for a less authoritarian candidate is an act of self-defense. It is not aggression if the candidate in question has pledged to reduce the size and power of government as a whole. This is simply curbing someone else’s attempt at using more force against you.
Imagine someone has you and a few other people locked in their basement. You cannot leave, but you can vote for what they will do to you. He offers to either firebrand you, or to whip you. Sure, you would rather not be whipped, but they have the monopoly on the use of force, so you must chose one option, and being branded seems much worse. You can abstain from voting, but doing so will not set you free, even if nobody else votes.
You vote to be whipped. This is not an act of aggression towards the others in the group, even if some are masochists who would rather be branded or sadists who would rather see you branded. This is self-defense against a worse outcome.
This is obviously meant to be analogous to government. We can vote or not vote, but no matter what we are subject to their legislation. In other words, as Pericles is said to have said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you”.
My reasoning for not abstaining to vote is that doing so is not a strategy for reducing government. If every liberty-minded person refused to vote, that would just mean the authoritarians who don’t have a problem with the system would be the ones who decide who rules over all of us.
As for who to vote for, that is a different question. The 2016 election was unique in that there was a significant difference between the two leading candidates. In that case, even if I might have agreed with Gary Johnson on more things than Donald Trump, I would have voted for Trump because he was the only one with a chance to defeat Hillary. My goal would have been to defend myself against Hillary’s policies rather than see Trump’s enacted, because Hillary was such a godawful candidate.
If the election in question was a more traditional one, like the 2012 election, I probably would have voted for Ron Paul. The leading two candidates were so similar in being mainstream establishment puppets that no matter which one won, nothing would be significantly different. I would vote for Ron Paul because, even though he would never win, adding to his vote count would get the message of small government out more than not voting, which could be seen as any number of things and not necessarily a disdain for government.