**FILE** A voter asks an election worker a question as she votes at Samuels Community Center in the presidential election in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 8, 2016. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)
**FILE** A voter asks an election worker a question as she votes at Samuels Community Center in the presidential election in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 8, 2016. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the simplest crimes for police to analyze is the basic crime of theft. It’s always accompanied by the motive of profit or gain. In other words, someone else possesses something that would bring another person a benefit and the first person desires to take it from the second. This concept is so simple that most cannot, will not or do not reasonably apply it to the issue of voting rights.

I’ve long felt that the value of anything could be measured in the eagerness that someone else has to take it, control it or prevent one from using it. If we look realistically, these dynamics have affected OUR votes for years. Some are too young to remember the poll tests that gave cover to racially discriminatory exclusion from the voting process. While objectionable, tests were far less physically damaging than the beatings and lynching that accompanied the challenge for the full right of citizenship. To the value of our current right to vote, we can add the value of the brothers and sisters who were brutalized and the lives that were lost in this struggle.

Although I honor the effort of OUR ancestors in their struggles for freedom, I acknowledge that a vote is “owned” by each citizen to be done with as she/he chooses. I cannot, however, accept the logic of not voting “because nothing will change” or “because the choice between the lesser of two evils is no choice.” For those who hold those views, I can assure you that nothing will change without the influence of the vote, and can assert that history has shown that when we’ve been faced with overwhelming adversity, the lesser of two evils has proven more acceptable than not.

I encourage you to really listen to the “PLAN” that’s being outlined daily for each of us. While the current Republicans in control have given more than a billion dollars in tax relief to the wealthiest Americans and suggest plans for additional tax relief for this Affluent Welfare Package, the Senate majority (Republican) leader has stated publicly that the only way to resolve the resulting and increasing budget deficit is to reduce the amounts disbursed in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits! This is the reverse Robin Hood principle — rob the poor and give to the rich.

If not for divine intervention, these same Republicans would’ve stripped the benefits of the ACA (Obamacare) from millions of Americans who would otherwise be under-insured or uninsured. Within the past few weeks, there’s been quiet, but extensive media coverage of Republican efforts to disassembled insurance protections for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. Soon, under the Republican philosophy of governance, the only option for Americans afflicted with chronic or severe illness will be to die, and not from Sarah Palin’s mythical “death panels.”

Before we “truly” endeavor to protect and cherish our right to vote, we must consider it the precious commodity it is. We must guard and defend it with as much vigor and determination as we’d safeguard our automobiles, jewelry, big-screen TVs or any other valuable we can reach out and touch. While those tangible items allow us to measure our “creature comforts,” our votes and who we cast them for will determine our quality of life and the quality of the lives of our children far into the future.

In 2016, the majority of American voters voted against #45. Unfortunately, they were not the right 3 million voters and too many others ignored their responsibility to vote. For those choosing to look critically, the past two years illuminate the value of the vote. We must not abuse or ignore our votes in 2018.

Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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