The House today gave preliminary approval to a bill that will require presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before their names can appear on an Arizona ballot.
The provision, which came in the form of a floor amendment to a bill that deals with presidential elections, was adopted by a 31-22 vote. The bill is now ready for a final vote by the House.
If approved by the House, S1024 will require presidential candidates to submit affidavits swearing they are qualified for the position and to attach a birth certificate as proof. If the secretary of state has reason to believe a candidate does not meet the qualifications, he or she would be prohibited from placing the candidate’s name on the ballot.
The amendment to S1024 is identical to a bill sponsored earlier this year by Skull Valley Republican Rep. Judy Burges. That bill, H2441, was approved by the House Government Committee, which Burges chairs, but was never heard on the House floor.
Both the amendment and Burges’ original bill were derided by critics as a phenomenon of the “birther” movement, a pejorative term for those who do not believe President Barack Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen. They contend he was born on foreign soil and that a Hawaii birth certificate his campaign produced in 2008 is not legitimate.
Supporters said the bill is not aimed at Obama, but rather at preventing similar debates over citizenship in the future. Burges said the goal was simply to mirror in state statute the language already in the U.S. Constitution.
“My vote has nothing to do with President Obama,” said Rep. Cecil Ash, a Mesa Republican. “I’m looking at this amendment as a way to avoid these arguments in the future.”
However, opponents said the bill makes Arizona look bad and sets a dangerous precedent.
“Can we please stop having Arizona be the laughingstock of the nation?” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat. She also called the birther movement “ridiculous and offensive.”