Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Since the controversy began over Barack Obama’s failure to conclusively demonstrate his eligibility to serve as president, legislators in at least 15 states have attempted to pass bills that would clarify how a candidate must prove his constitutional eligibility to occupy the Oval Office, and all but one have been stalled, vetoed or shot down.
As WND has reported, there exists virtually no mechanism in the U.S. for investigating whether or not a presidential candidate meets the Constitution’s Article 2, Section 1, “natural-born citizen” requirement.
Last year, New Hampshire became the only state to successfully sign into law a bill clarifying eligibility requirements.
But New Hampshire’s H.B. 1245, signed into law by Democratic Governor John Lynch, merely requires a statement under penalty of perjury that a candidate meets the qualification requirements of the U.S. Constitution, similar to what the political parties already send to states regarding their candidates.
Most of the efforts of at least 14 other states were launched in January, only to be tabled, ignored or killed by March. Montana’s bill, which requires a candidate for president or vice president to submit a certified copy of his or her birth certificate to Montana’s secretary of state, was ruled dead in committee on April 28 – the day after Obama produced his purported long-form birth certificate.
“State legislators are being hoodwinked by the White House to think that just because Obama has released a long-form birth certificate, the question of his eligibility to be president is over,” Corsi told WND.
“Debate continues to rage over whether the birth certificate released on April 27 is a forgery,” Corsi continued. “To date, the ‘best evidence’ of that document in a legal sense – namely, the original, 1961 long-form paper certificate – remains under lock and key in the vault of the Hawaii Department of Health. The U.S. should demand the original Obama birth certificate document submit to independent forensic testing before the question of its authenticity is put to bed.
“All it would take is one state to pass a tough eligibility law, and the continuing cover-up over the Obama birth records could be brought to an end,” he concluded. “Failure to do so will simply convince millions of Americans that our state legislators lack the resolve to defend the Constitution.”
Opponents of the legislative efforts have tagged them “birther bills” in an attempt to marginalize their sponsors and argue that the legislation is merely an attack on Obama.
But Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Republican author of the “birther bill” in his state, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I wouldn’t say [the bill] is specifically in response to Obama,” but instead stems from the lack of documentation required for candidates.
“As we know, legitimate questions periodically arise regarding the qualifications of a candidate for public office. What better way to resolve such questions than to require candidates to provide proof of their qualifications at the time they file their nomination petitions or nomination papers,” Metcalfe wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors for his bill. “I believe that this process is one of the many steps that we can take to restore the faith of the voting public in the electoral process.”
“The states should pass bills requiring the state secretary of state to examine birth credentials before putting a candidate on the state’s ballot for president, not just for Obama, but for all future candidates,” Corsi adds. “As the United States continues to experience a new wave of immigration and our society becomes more diverse, we are certain to get future candidates for president whose birth circumstances may not make them natural-born citizens within the meaning of Article 2, Section 1.”
WND confirmed the following measures were brought up – and shot down – in their respective states.
Arizona:House Bill 2177, which requires a candidate to submit to the Arizona secretary of state a long-form birth certificate, or various other birth proofs in case the candidate doesn’t possess such a document, made it further in the process than any of the other bills, save New Hampshire’s.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
As WND reported, the measure passed through the Arizona Legislature, but was vetoed on April 18 by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who said, “I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions.”
She added: “I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president … to submit their ‘early baptismal or circumcision certificates’ among other records. … This is a bridge too far.”
Connecticut:SB 291, which requires candidates to provide “an original birth certificate,” was referred to the state Senate’s Joint Committee on Government, Administration and Elections, where it has lingered since Jan. 20.
Georgia:HB 37, submitted by State Rep. Bobby Franklin, requires only that candidates provide “original documentation” demonstrating eligibility. On Jan. 24, it was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where the state’s online records don’t even list the bill as having been placed on the committee’s agenda.
Indiana: Sen. Mike Delph proposed SB114, which requires candidates for president and vice president to produce their birth certificates. It as assigned to committee, where it has remained, stuck, since Jan. 5.
Iowa:SF 368, proposed by Sen. Kent Sorenson, requires birth certificates be filed for presidential and vice presidential candidates. It was referred to committee on March 2, subcommittee on March 3, and there it remains.
Louisiana: Rep. Alan Seabuagh and Sen. A.G. Crowe were assured of their governor’s signature if they could pass HB 561, which requires not only those seeking the presidency, but also those seeking election to the U.S. House and Senate, to submit “an original or certified copy of the candidate’s 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,” among other affidavits verifying residency and eligibility requirements.
“It’s not part of our package, but if the legislature passes it, we’ll sign it,” Kyle Plotkin, press secretary to Gov. Bobby Jindal, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Seabaugh told the New Orleans newspaper he’s concerned that of all of the eligibility cases brought to court, attorneys representing the president have prevented any from reaching the stage in which evidence could be obtained.
“Not one of them has ever been decided on the merits,” Seabaugh told the newspaper. “As an attorney, that’s offensive to me.”
HB 561 was referred to House and Governmental Affairs committee on April 25, and nothing has happened on it since.
Maine:LD 34, which requires candidates for nomination by primary election or petition to provide copies of their birth certificates and driver’s licenses, was killed by unanimous vote in committee on March 17. It is now listed as “dead” in the state’s Senate files.
Missouri:HB 283, which requires only “proof of identity and proof of United States citizenship,” was given a public hearing on March 1, but was never placed on the legislative calendar.
Montana: Rep. Bob Wagner’s HB 205 requires presidential candidates to file a copy of their birth certificate as well as “documentary proof” of citizenship and residency. The bill died in committee on April 28.
Nebraska: Sen. Mark Christensen’s LB 654 seeks not only proof of birth, but harkens back to 18th century Swiss philosopher Emmerich de Vattel, who defined natural-born citizenship around the time of the writing of the Constitution as “those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”
LB 654 requires a candidate seeking the presidency to not only provide a copy of his or her long-form birth certificate, but also proof of his or her parents’ citizenship at the time of the candidate’s birth and a signed affidavit affirming, “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. On the day I was born, both my birth mother and birth father were citizens of the United States of America.”
The bill was referred to the Nebraska Senate’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, where it has remained since Jan. 21.
Oklahoma State Sen. Rick Brinkley
Oklahoma: State Sen. Rick Brinkley’s SB 91 came very close to becoming law.
SB 91 requires that all candidates – not just those for president – shall “provide proof of identity and eligibility to hold the office.” It requires the secretary of state to write up rules to specify the documentation that will be required and mandates that the documents be made available for public inspection.
Referencing Oklahoma voters’ strong support for State Question 746, a voter ID ballot measure approved last year, Brinkley said it was sensible that candidates meet the same minimal requirement.
“In November, 74 percent of Oklahoma voters were in agreement that they should have to show an ID and prove who they were and that they were eligible to vote,” said Brinkley, R-Owasso. “I believe the voters would agree that those on the ballot should have to do the same thing.”
Though a version of Brinkley’s bill passed in both the Oklahoma House and Senate, a series of amendments ultimately doomed it.
A representative from Sen. Brinkley’s office told WND the bill went to conference to attempt to reconcile the House and Senate versions, only to die in that committee on May 18. The representative explained Brinkley would have to run the bill through again before the legislature would reconsider it.
Pennsylvania:HB 1350, introduced by State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, requires presidential candidates to provide “proof” of natural-born citizenship.
“This legislation is intended to send the message that even those candidates who are running for our nation’s highest office are not above the law,” Metcalfe said in his announcement about the plan. “Final passage of this legislation will provide additional levels of both trust and verification that anyone seeking elected office in Pennsylvania is just as much an American citizen as the voters supporting their candidacy.
“America’s founding fathers said it best, ‘a well-informed electorate taught to know and prize their God-given rights cannot be enslaved,’” he continued. “As a veteran and an elected official who takes an oath of office, just like every past and future president of the United States, to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of the citizens I represent, it is beyond perplexing and greatly troubling that a political candidate can ascend to the highest levels of government without providing sufficient documentation verifying his or her place of birth or American citizenship.”
HB 1350 was referred to House State Government committee, with no action listed since April 20, even though Metcalfe is majority chair of the committee.
Tennessee:SB 0366, introduced by Sen. Mae Beavers, also takes up the issue of allegiance in the definition of “natural-born citizen,” requiring both “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” and “a sworn statement attesting that the candidate has not held dual or multiple citizenship and that the candidate’s allegiance is solely to the United States.”
SB 0366 was referred to committee on Feb. 10, and has remained dormant since.
Texas State Rep. Leo Berman
Texas:HB 295, proposed by Rep. Leo Berman, adds to the state election code the provision: “The secretary of state may not certify the name of a candidate for president or vice-president unless the candidate has presented the candidate’s original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen.”
It includes an effective date of Sept. 1, 2011, in time for 2012 presidential campaigning.
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.
“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.”
Though it had more than a dozen sponsors, Posey’s bill died at the end of the last Congress.
“There is a loophole in the Constitution,” Corsi told WND, “such that Article 2, Section 1, requires a president to be a ‘natural-born citizen,’ but no agency of government is given the authority or the responsibility to examine birth credentials to determine if a particular candidate qualifies to run for president.
“As I explained in “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” the traditional understanding of ‘natural-born Citizen,’ back to the Founding Fathers, was that the designation of a natural-born citizen was a subset of citizens born in the United States to two parents who were U.S. citizens,” he continued. “The political left has wanted to expand the definition of natural-born citizens to include the 14th Amendment, such that native-born citizens – those persons who are citizens because they were born in the United States – would be considered ‘natural-born citizens,’ even if neither of their parents were U.S. citizens. Such a loose definition would allow even ‘anchor babies’ born in the United States by two illegal immigrants to be considered eligible to run for president.”
Corsi added, “To avoid having a double standard, where the mainstream media and Democrats challenge Republican candidates for president such as John McCain under Article 2, Section 1, (because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone) but place no scrutiny on candidates like Barack Obama, precisely because Obama did not have two U.S. citizens as his parents at birth, we need to create a governmental mechanism at the state or federal level that can apply consistent standards to all presidential candidates in the future, regardless of party affiliation, race, sex or age.
“No serious presidential candidate would want any state to determine that he or she cannot run for president because they are not a natural-born citizen. So, if one state passes an eligibility law, that might be the trigger to put into place a national solution,” he concluded.
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