The House today will consider an amendment that would require presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before their names can appear on an Arizona ballot.
The amendment, which Rep. Judy Burges said she will offer on the floor during the debate of a bill that deals with elections, is expected to be identical to a bill the Republican from Skull Valley sponsored earlier this year.
That bill, H2441, was approved by the House Government Committee, which Burges chairs, but was never heard on the House floor. It would have required presidential candidates to submit affidavits swearing they are qualified for the position and to attach a birth certificate. 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.
Burges said she will offer the language of H2441 as an amendment to S1024, which is sponsored by Sen. Jack Harper, a Surprise Republican. Both Harper and Burges represent Legislative District 4, which covers the far northwest reaches of the Valley and portions of Yavapai County.
Burges originally planned to offer the amendment April 8, but Harper’s bill was retained on the House Committee of the Whole calendar.
The amendment, along with Burges’ original bill, has been 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 citizen of the United States. They contend he was born on foreign soil and that a Hawaii birth certificate his campaign produced in 2008 is not legitimate.
Burges has said the bill is not aimed solely at Obama, but the debate over his citizenship highlighted the fact that states have no ability to determine if candidates qualify for the ballot. Right now, the Federal Elections Commission certifies presidential candidates, which includes verifying they are at least 35 years of age and are natural-born citizens, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Harper, who supports the amendment, said there is “ample evidence” Obama was born in Hawaii. However, states lack a mechanism to verify the eligibility of candidates independently of the federal government.
“We’re going to check and balance them every chance we get,” Harper said.
House Assistant Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat, said it would be “ridiculous” to make Arizona’s secretary of state an arbiter of who can or cannot run for president.
“I think that’s a lot of hubris,” she said. “I think it’s also pretty offensive.”
The House is scheduled to take up the bill and the amendment when it convenes its floor session at 1:30 today.