Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Obama on the campaign trail
A long list of state lawmakers are marching forward on a number of legislative fronts to ensure candidates for president on their election ballots are eligible to hold the office.
But state Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Ga., is taking it one step further with his proposed eligibility requirement – making it illegal for an elector to cast a ballot for an unapproved candidate.
The state’s Presidential Eligibility Assurance Act would specify, “It is unlawful for any presidential elector from this state to cast his or her electoral college vote for a candidate who is not approved by the Secretary of State as having submitted adequate evidence of eligibility. Any person who violates this Code section shall upon conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
WND has reported on the state-level efforts to ensure that candidates for the Oval Office meet the requirements established in the U.S. Constitution: a resident for 14 years, at least 35 years of age and a “natural born Citizen.”
At least 11 states have seen such requirements introduced in the current state legislative sessions, and in 10 of those states the plans still are alive. A committee vote in Montana tabled a proposal there.
Hatfield told WND that his new bill is similar to the plan he proposed at the end of last year’s session but which was not submitted in time to advance. It, like many in other states, calls for assurances that “no person shall be eligible for placement on any ballot as a candidate for president or vice president unless the secretary of state shall have received and approved adequate evidence of such person’s eligibility for election to such office.”
The bill also specifies the evidence needed and authorizes “any elector of this state” to challenge the qualifications that a candidate would offer as proof. It calls for a long-form birth certificate that includes details of the candidate’s birth, or “the candidate’s birth records, adoption records, baptism records, Social Security records, medical records, school and college records, military records, and passport records.”
Computer-generated facsimiles won’t do.
“The candidate shall not attach certified or other copies of nonoriginal documents or records,” the law requires.
It also requires affirmations that the candidate never was a citizen of another country and never had dual or multiple citizenships.
Also, residence addresses for the past 14 years “in the United States” are required.
“The secretary of state shall approve the evidence of eligibility as adequate or if the secretary of state finds reasonable cause to believe that any candidate does not meet the natural born citizenship, age, and residency requirements prescribed by Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, the secretary of state shall not place such candidate’s name on the ballot in this state.”
Hatfield said he already has 94 signatures on the bill in a 180-member House where 91 votes are needed for passage.
“We’re encouraged by the fact that we have enough votes already if it gets to the floor. We are cautiously optimistic we have the votes to pass it,” he told WND.
The first hearing by a subcommittee on the issue was held today, and while a couple of small technical amendments were suggested, a vote could come within a day or two, he said.
It then would move on to the Senate, where Hatfield said he’s already working with members who share concerns about the gap in the U.S. electoral process. Obama’s election in 2008, he said, illustrated that there is no authority to require documentation of eligibility.
“My gut feeling is that the Senate will be receptive to the bill,” he said.
Hatfield said his bill would not only address Obama’s eligibility, but issues surrounding the eligibility of President Chester Arthur and candidates such as Michigan Gov. George Romney in the 1960s.
“This has been going on for some time on and off,” he said. “And when Congress has not taken any steps for any enforcement mechanism, the Constitution gives states the power to control the manner in which electors are elected by the states.”
He said by extension the Constitution gives states the authority to run their own elections.
Hatfield said when such a bill eventually becomes law, in Georgia or somewhere else, he expects the political process to continue as it has and candidates “will come in and submit their evidence of eligibility.”
Georgia also has a previous proposal, HB37 by Rep. Bobby Franklin, that would demand birth-certificate documentation and give citizens standing to challenge the documentation.
Other states involved in the hunt for a solution include Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
With the exception of Montana, all of those plans are listed as moving forward, with assignments to committees or hearings. Here are the plans:
This is the one that could change the game. A plan in Arizona to require presidential candidates to prove their eligibility to occupy the Oval Office is approaching critical mass.
The proposal from state Rep. Judy Burges was issued with 16 members of the state Senate as co-sponsors. It needs only 16 votes in the Senate to pass. It has been moved to the House judiciary committee as well as the House rules committee.
In the House, there are 25 co-sponsors, with the need for only 31 votes for passage. Burges told WND that there were several chamber members who confirmed they support the plan and will vote for it but simply didn’t wish to be listed as co-sponsors.
The proposal is highly specific and directly addresses the questions that have been raised by Barack Obama’s occupancy of the White House. It says:
Within ten days after submittal of the names of the candidates, the national political party committee shall submit an affidavit of the presidential candidate in which the presidential candidate states the candidate’s citizenship and age and shall append to the affidavit documents that prove that the candidate is a natural born citizen, prove the candidate’s age and prove that the candidate meets the residency requirements for President of the United States as prescribed in article II, section 1, Constitution of the United States.
“I think every American should consider it of prime importance to ensure that all candidates for the highest elected position in our nation meet all constitutional requirements,” Burges told WND.
The Arizona bill also requires attachments “which shall be sworn to under penalty of perjury,” including “an original long form birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician and signatures of the witnesses in attendance.”
It also requires testimony that the candidate “has not held dual or multiple citizenship and that the candidate’s allegiance is solely to the United States of America.”
“If both the candidate and the national political party committee for that candidate fail to submit and swear to the documents prescribed in this section, the secretary of state shall not place that presidential candidate’s name on the ballot in this state,” the plan explains.
The governor’s office is occupied by Republican Jan Brewer, who has had no difficulty bringing direct challenges to Washington. In 2010, when lawmakers adopted provisions allowing state law-enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law, the prompted an immediate court challenge by the federal government.
In Connecticut, SB291 has been referred to the joint committee on government administration and elections.
It would require “that candidates for president and vice-president provide their original birth certificates in order to be placed on the ballot.”
That is needed to make sure the candidate “is a natural born United States citizen, prior to certifying that the candidate is qualified to appear on the ballot.”
In Indiana it was Sen. Mike Delph who proposed SB114 to require candidates to provide a certified copy of their birth certificate and include an affirmation they meet the Constitution’s requirements for the president.
The bill also has been assigned to committee.
It calls for the candidates “to certify that the candidate has the qualifications provided in Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution” and accompany that certification with “a certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, including any other documentation necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications.”
In also provides “that the election division may not certify the name of a nominee for president or vice president of the United States unless the election division has received a nominee’s certification and documentation.”
“However, it makes no provision for requiring candidates to furnish any evidence with their declaration of candidacy to indicate whether they are eligible to hold the office. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires a person to be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years of age and have resided within the United States for at least 14 years in order to be eligible to be president. Under Delph’s legislation, no major party candidate will be eligible for the Indiana presidential primary unless they file a declaration of candidacy attesting that he or she meets the constitutional eligibility requirements and furnish the state election’s division with a certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate and any other evidence the Commission may require to establish the candidate satisfies the constitutional eligibility requirements.”
He cited the “unprecedented” 2008 election, in which “the candidates nominated by both major parties for president had questions raised by citizens about their eligibility, which resulted in dozens of lawsuits being filed across the country. Sen. John McCain’s birth in Panama where his father was serving his country in the Navy led to lawsuits being filed against his candidacy, while questions about the birthplace of Barack Obama resulted in even more lawsuits being filed challenging his eligibility.”
“Obama furnished to Factcheck.org what was purported to be a certified copy of his birth certificate [the online certification of live birth], although questions lingered about his natural born status because his father was not a U.S. citizen and persistent Internet rumors that he was actually born in Kenya and not Hawaii as he claimed.”
But he said the issue was that neither candidate was “required to furnish any election authority with any document such as a birth certificate.”
He said, “After [Sen. John] McCain was nominated at the Republican National Convention, Republican officials filed with the elections division a certificate of nomination that attested both he and his vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, met the eligibility requirements set out in the U.S. Constitution. The certificate of nomination filed by Democratic Party officials for Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, contained no similar attestation.
“Critics will no doubt poke fun at SB114 and label Delph and those who support it as ‘birthers.’ To them I say it is no more absurd than the documentary proof required under state law for persons seeking a driver’s license, or requiring all registered voters to present a valid picture ID in order to cast a vote in person at an election. And it certainly is no more burdensome than evidence required of ordinary citizens in any number of transactions,” he said.
On Welsh’s blog, a forum participant wrote, “All I can say is he is the only president in my memory who has not only REFUSED to present medical records, tax records, birth records, college records, etc., but he has hired a battalion of lawyers who vigorously fight every effort to force him to. Why is he so secretive?”
It states, “A candidate for nomination by primary election shall show proof of United States citizenship in the form of a certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate and the candidate’s driver’s license or other government-issued identification to the Secretary of State.”
The Missouri plan, HB283, by nearly two dozen sponsors, states certification for candidates “shall include proof of identity and proof of United States citizenship.”
It’s in the House elections committee and has been scheduled for a public hearing.
Under Montana’s bill by Rep. Bob Wagner, candidates would have had to document their eligibility and also provide for protection for state taxpayers to prevent them from being billed for “unnecessary expense and litigation” involving the failure of ‘federal election officials’ to do their duty.
According to the NCSL database, the bill was defeated at the committee stage, and it’s unknown if there are plans to resurrect it by attaching it to another bill, a routine procedure in some states.
“There should be no question after the fact as to the qualifications [of a president],” Wagner told WND. “The state of Montana needs to have [legal] grounds to sue for damages for the cost of litigation.”
Wagner’s legislation cited the Constitution’s requirement that the president hold “natural born citizenship” and the fact that the “military sons and daughters of the people of Montana and all civil servants to the people of Montana are required by oath to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States and Montana against enemies foreign and domestic.”
But there are estimates of up to $2 million being spent on Obama’s defense against eligibility lawsuits. There have been dozens of them, and some have been running for more than two years. So Wagner went a step beyond.
“Whereas, it would seem only right and just to positively certify eligibility for presidential and congressional office at the federal level; and whereas, it is apparent that the federal authority is negligent in the matter; therefore, the responsibility falls upon the state; and whereas, this act would safeguard the people of Montana from unnecessary expense and litigation and the possibility that federal election officials fail in their duty and would ensure that the State of Montana remains true to the Constitution,” says his proposed legislation.
The paperwork would need to document they meet the “eligibility requirements of Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.”
The plan, in committee now, requires an affidavit that says: “I was born a citizen of the United States of America and was subject exclusively to the jurisdiction of the United States of America, owing allegiance to no other country at the time of my birth.”
In Oklahoma, SB91, also in committee, would require “proof of citizenship for certain candidates” and take the openness one step further, allowing public access.
It demands an “original” birth certificate issued by a state, the federal government, or documentation of a birth of a U.S. citizen abroad.
“Copies of these documents shall be made by the election board and kept available for public inspection pursuant to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.”
At the request of a local tea-party group, Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers has filed a bill that would require presidential candidates to show an original birth certificate establishing constitutional eligibility for the office before getting on the ballot beginning in 2012.
Beavers told a local television station she said she wouldn’t comment about whether or not she believes Obama meets the test because she has no personal knowledge about whether or not he can prove it. She said, however, this legislation would erase all concerns in future elections.
“We just want to make doubly sure in Tennessee if we put someone on the ballot, they are qualified to run,” said Beavers.
It includes an effective date of Sept. 1, 2011, in time for 2012 presidential campaigning.
State Rep. Leo Berman
Berman told WND he’s seen neither evidence nor indication that Obama qualifies under the Constitution’s requirement that a president be a “natural-born citizen.”
“If the federal government is not going to vet these people, like they vetted John McCain, we’ll do it in our state,” he said.
He noted the Senate’s investigation into McCain because of the Republican senator’s birth in Panama to military parents.
New Hampshire last year adopted HB1245, but it requires only a statement under penalty of perjury that a candidate meets the qualification requirements of the U.S. Constitution, which is similar to what the political parties already state regarding their candidates.
In Pennsylvania, there has been excitement over the GOP majority of both houses of the state legislature as well as the governor’s office. Assemblyman Daryl Metcalfe told WND he is working on a proposal that would demand documentation of constitutional eligibility.
He described it as a “problem” that there has been no established procedure for making sure that presidential candidates meet the Constitution’s requirements for age, residency and being a natural-born citizen.
“We hope we would be able to pass this legislation and put it into law before the next session,” he said.
At the time the Constitution was written, many analysts agree, a natural-born citizen was considered to be a citizen born of two citizen parents. If that indeed is correct, Obama never would have been qualified to be president, as he himself has confirmed his father was a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, making Obama a dual citizen with Kenyan and American parentage at his birth.
Other definitions regard a natural-born citizen to be a person born of citizen parents inside the nation.
There have been dozens of lawsuits and challenges over the fact that Obama’s natural-born citizen status never has been documented. Critics argue the short-form certification of live birth his campaign posted online is not definitive because Hawaii’s lax laws enabled families to report a birth without proof that the child was born in Hawaii.
The controversy stems from the Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, which states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
The challenges to Obama’s eligibility allege he does not qualify because he was not born in Hawaii in 1961 as he claims, or that he fails to qualify because he was a dual citizen, through his father, of the U.S. and the United Kingdom’s Kenyan territory when he was born and the framers of the Constitution specifically excluded dual citizens from eligibility.
There are several cases still pending before the courts over Obama’s eligibility. Those cases, however, almost all have been facing hurdles created by the courts’ interpretation of “standing,” meaning someone who is being or could be harmed by the situation. The courts have decided almost unanimously that an individual taxpayer faces no damages different from other taxpayers, therefore doesn’t have standing. Judges even have ruled that other presidential candidates are in that position.
The result is that none of the court cases to date has reached the level of discovery, through which Obama’s birth documentation could be brought into court.
Obama even continued to withhold the information during a court-martial of a military officer, Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who challenged his deployment orders on the grounds Obama may not be a legitimate president. Lakin was convicted and sent to prison.
A year ago, polls indicated that roughly half of American voters were aware of a dispute over Obama’s eligibility. Recent polls, however, by organizations including CNN, show that roughly six in 10 American voters hold serious doubts that Obama is eligible under the Constitution’s demands.
Orly Taitz, the California lawyer who has worked on a number of the highest-profile legal challenges to Obama, was encouraging residents of other states to get to work.
“We need eligibility bills filed in each and every state of the union … as it shows the regime that we are still the nation of law and the Constitution, that the Constitution matters and state representatives and senators are ready to fight for the rule of law. During the last election there were some 700 more Republican state assemblyman elected all over the country, as the nation is not willing to tolerate this assault on our rights and our Constitution any further,” she said.
“To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution.”
The bill also provided:
“Congress finds that under … the Constitution of the United States, in order to be eligible to serve as President, an individual must be a natural born citizen of the United States who has attained the age of 35 years and has been a resident within the United States for at least 14 years.”
It had more than a dozen sponsors, and while it died at the end of the last Congress, there are hopes the GOP majority in the House this year will move such a plan forward.
“What we need are hundreds of thousands of Americans endorsing this strategy on the petition – encouraging more action by state officials before the 2012 election. Imagine if just one or two states adopt such measures before 2012. Obama will be forced to comply with those state regulations or forgo any effort to get on the ballot for re-election. Can Obama run and win without getting on all 50 state ballots? I don’t think so,” said Joseph Farah, CEO of WND, who is behind the idea of the petition.
For 18 months, Farah has been one of the few national figures who has steadfastly pushed the issue of eligibility, despite ridicule, name-calling and ostracism at the hands of most of his colleagues. To date, in addition to the earlier petition, he has:
“Obama may be able to continue showing contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law for the next two years, as he has demonstrated his willingness to do in his first year in office,” he wrote in a column. “However, a day of reckoning is coming. Even if only one significant state, with a sizable Electoral College count, decides a candidate for election or re-election has failed to prove his or her eligibility, that makes it nearly impossible for the candidate to win. It doesn’t take all 50 states complying with the law to be effective.”
If you are a member of the media and would like to interview Joseph Farah about this campaign, e-mail WND.