The Arizona Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require presidential candidates to prove they are U.S. citizens eligible to run for office before they could be placed on the state ballot.
The bill would make Arizona the first state to pass such legislation.
“It’s an embarrassment,” Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said. “It puts us back in ranking as the laughing stock of the nation. Meanwhile, we can’t even create jobs or fund schools.”
Hawaii officials have certified that President Barack Obama was born in that state, but so called “birthers” have demanded additional proof, asserting that Obama could have been born in his father’s home country, Kenya. Obama’s mother was an American citizen.
Under the bill, candidates who don’t have a birth certificate could show two alternative documents, including a baptismal or circumcision certificate, a hospital birth record or a postpartum medical record. A notarized affidavit from at least two people present when the candidate was born would also be acceptable.
Even though Obama may have inspired the debate, the bill would ensure accountability for all public officials, said Republican Rep. Carl Seel, the author of the bill.
“It’s clearly a good day for the Constitution,” he said.
Seel added that Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the prerogative to determine how they conduct their elections.
But Democrats said the bill doesn’t stand a chance of going into effect because the Federal Elections Commission is the only authority that can review a candidate’s eligibility documents, not the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.
People who continue to question whether Obama was born in the United States should address the issue with Congress and not try to regulate it at the state level, Sinema said.
Seel said the bill stands on good grounds to meet constitutional standards because the language offering candidates alternative ways to prove their place of birth aligns with the same standards used by the Department of Defense.
The bill now goes to the House for a final vote.