Any first-year law student knows ignorantia juris non excusat: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
As such, all of us should know the provisions of the Voter Information Verification Act that has been enacted by the N.C. General Assembly. In addition to the photo ID requirement for voters, VIVA will impose new limits on early voting, voting hours and voting sites.
The law directs the State Board of Elections to use all media together with public agencies, private partners and nonprofits to disseminate information about the new requirement to have photo identification for voting and about how those without such identification can get it.
Those over 70, the blind, the homeless or anyone who is registered to vote and does not have a photo ID can get one without paying a fee.
If you couple that with the fact that the voter ID provisions will apply only to elections after Jan. 1, 2016, I am at a loss to understand how any citizen who values his or her right to vote cannot comply with the law within the next two and a half years.
Why then is there such furor over VIVA? It all comes into focus when you read who is commenting on the law. It is not the blind, the elderly, the homeless or any other registered voter without a photo ID.
All of the noise is coming from liberal media and professional manipulators who fear that they will lose the ability to influence the vote in elections to come. Under the guise of speaking for the undocumented and indifferent, they are prepared to resort to the courts to undermine the will of the state legislature.
They will argue that the motives of our legislators are partisan. Of course they are. The elected government of the day enacts the election laws.
It is not as if existing laws came down from some biblical mountain engraved on stone tablets. They are the product of generations of Democratic governments in Raleigh, and the Democrats are every bit as partisan as the Republicans. Lets face it. There is no silver medal in politics.
What the complainers do not seem to understand is that the right to vote is personal to the voter. It is not a right that accrues to any other person or organization. The right to vote includes the right not to vote or to decide that one will disengage from society to the point of having no photo ID.
We might have adopted a system like the Australians that requires citizens to vote. We have not. In fact, in many U.S. elections, fewer than half of the voters bother going to the polls.
While VIVA eliminates same-day voter registration, pre-registration of high school students and registration drives by paid canvassers, it does little to strengthen the documentary requirements for those applying to register.
Only U.S. citizens are entitled to vote. Almost all citizens were either born in the United States or became naturalized citizens. In order to register as a voter, one should be required to produce a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization together with a government-issued photo ID. Alternatively, anyone with a U.S. passport should be able to register to vote.
Currently, Section 3 of the N.C. Voter Registration Application requires the applicant to give the number of his or her drivers license or, if not available, the last four digits of ones Social Security number.
Whats the problem with that? I had a North Carolina drivers license within a month of moving to North Carolina from Canada in 1999. The DMV seemed quite happy to exchange my Province of Ontario drivers license for an N.C. license. A drivers license does not verify citizenship.
Within a year of moving to N.C., I had a Social Security card. It was more than five years later before I became a citizen. Having a Social Security number in no way verifies citizenship.
Of course, you have to sign under penalty of perjury that you are a U.S. citizen, and we are a law-abiding people. Arent we?
I ran into a factoid recently that speaks volumes as to our integrity. In the first year Congress required taxpayers to include their childrens Social Security numbers on income tax returns, 7 million children previously claimed as dependents disappeared.
I rest my case.
Contributing columnist Marc Landry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.