PHOENIX — Nearly half of the Arizona Legislature wants to force President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate to state officials if he runs for re-election.
A state House committee on Tuesday approved the measure sponsored by 40 of the state’s 90 legislators. It would require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president.
Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, said she brought forward the idea after being approached by constituents. She said people have to show their birth certificate to enroll in youth sports or get a passport, so they should have to show it to run for president.
One of the constituents, Jeff Lichter of Surprise, said his motive isn’t partisan. In fact, he says, he has questions about the eligibility of both Obama and his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone.
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“The citizens of Arizona have a right to know that any candidate placed on the presidential ballot is qualified to run,” Lichter said.
All 40 co-sponsors are Republicans, comprising 75 percent of the GOP caucus, although two of them have since resigned to run for Congress.
Burges said 10 other states are considering similar legislation. Eleven U.S. House Republicans have signed on to a federal bill, but it hasn’t received a hearing in the Democrat-controlled House.
So-called “birthers” have contended since the 2008 presidential campaign that Obama was born abroad, even after his official Hawaii birth certificate was made public along with birth notices from two Honolulu newspapers published in August 1961.
The Constitution says that a person must be a “natural-born citizen” to be eligible for the presidency. The so-called “birthers” suggest that Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is fake and say he was actually born in Kenya, his father’s homeland.
The Arizona bill would require the secretary of state to review candidates’ documents and withhold a candidate from the ballot if he has “reasonable cause” to believe ineligibility.
Courts have rebuffed lawsuits challenging Obama’s eligibility to be president, but the issue hasn’t gone away.
Northern Arizona University political science professor Fred Solop described “birthers” as a small fringe group of extremists and said the Arizona lawmakers supporting their cause are walking a political tightrope.
“It would be very easy to go a little too far with this, to be aligned with the fringe and to alienate the more mainstream voters who ultimately you need to win office,” he said.
Having lost the presidential race, McCain is now running for re-election in the Senate. His campaign last week sparred with challenger JD Hayworth over Hayworth’s calls for Obama to produce his birth certificate.
A former congressman and talk-radio host, Hayworth told CNN’s Campbell Brown that he doesn’t specifically question Obama’s citizenship but said recent concerns about identity theft mean “it would be great that people can confirm who they say they are.”