Though the state doesn’t have a law requiring presidential candidates prove their citizenship, Arizona’s top elections official says he may not put President Barack Obama’s name on the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials don’t confirm that the president was born in that state.
That has unleashed a torrent of criticism of Secretary of State Ken Bennett from people who say he is giving in to the demands of “birthers,” the small but vocal group of people who continue to believe that Obama was not born in Hawaii.
In an email last month to one birther, Bennett, a Republican, said that he has revised the state’s presidential nomination forms to require the candidates to swear that they meet the qualifications in the U.S. Constitution, including that they are natural born citizens.
Additionally, Bennett has asked Hawaii officials to provide verification that Obama was born there. On a conservative talk show Thursday, he defended his move as an attempt to maintain the integrity of the ballot and said he doesn’t believe that Obama isn’t a citizen.
“I’m not a birther. I believe the president was born in Hawaii – or at least I hope he was,” Bennett told “The Mike Broomhead Show.”
Bennett said he made the request eight weeks ago, but Hawaii officials have not given him confirmation that they have record of Obama’s birth.
“If they can’t say yes to that simple question, it makes me wonder if we have to take it to another level,” he said. “I’m just stunned that they’re making it so hard.”
One option would be to block Obama’s name from appearing on the Arizona ballot.
“Or, the other option would be [to] ask all the candidates to submit a certified copy of their birth certificates,” Bennett said. “But we don’t want to do that.”
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell criticized Bennett, calling his stance blatant political pandering.
“He is jeopardizing the integrity of our election system to appease a fringe movement,” Campbell said.
Though Bennett is being criticized for pandering to the birthers, it doesn’t appear as though his actions have done anything to appease them.
“For him to provide a certified copy from the State of Hawaii, however, is no longer sufficient, given the irrefutable (and uncontested) proofs, clearly demonstrated by (Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio), in his on-going investigation,” birther and author Tom Ballantyne wrote to Bennett in an April 24 email that was provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.
“So why, Ken, does that carry no weight with your office, which is charged with insuring the integrity of the ballot in your state?”
In a follow-up email, Bennett said that Arpaio’s investigation isn’t conclusive, and those who believe it raised doubts about Obama’s citizenship should take the matter to court.
“I can tell from the tone and language of your letters that the only acceptable outcome for you is that his name not be on the ballot, period. That may be what happens, but under my watch, it won’t happen based on opinions, petitions, probability or pledges to support or oppose me in the 2014 Governor’s race,” Bennett wrote.
In 2011, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill backed by Republican lawmakers that would have required candidates for every elected office to provide documentation that they are qualified to hold the office. She called it “a bridge too far” and said it vested too much power in the secretary of state.
Brewer today said Bennett is welcome to handle the matter as he pleases, but she investigated the matter in 2008 when she was secretary of state and doesn’t have any questions about Obama’s citizenship.
“I talked to the governor, the previous governor of Hawaii, and she validated to me that the certificate was valid. And I put that to a rest,” Brewer said.