Arizona would require presidential hopefuls to prove their citizenship to the state’s highest elections official if they hope to appear on ballots in the Grand Canyon State under a bill approved April 21 by the House of Representatives.
The bill, S1024, narrowly passed 31-29, receiving the minimum number of votes required for approval. It was amended to include the so-called “birther” language on April 19.
“Arizona is seen as a laughingstock around the nation,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who voted against the bill. “I am ashamed that this is even a topic of discussion.”
Sinema also called it “ridiculous…offensive (and) disgusting” that Arizona lawmakers were taking up the matter.
Even the White House criticized the bill. “I can’t imagine Arizona voters think their tax dollars are well served by a legislature that is less focused on their lives than in fringe right-wing radio conspiracy theories,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told CNN on April 20.
But Rep. Judy Burges, a Republican from Skull Valley who sponsored the amendment and a bill with identical language, said the issue was an important one.
“This is one way to bring back integrity and transparency to the voting system,” she said. “Half of the people thinks everything is fine. The other half doesn’t…
“We are trying to solve a problem.”
Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert, said the founding fathers gave discretion to each state to determine how elections are conducted. Arizona already has a set of qualifications that each presidential hopeful must meet, and this legislation merely expands that, he said.
“I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual, other than the timing appears to be (related) to the most recent president,” Biggs said.
The bill would require national political parties to provide an affidavit stating the candidate meets the age, residency and citizenship requirements. Along with that, the candidate would be required to attach the documents needed for verification by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
If the secretary of state doesn’t believe a candidate meets qualifications for president, the candidate’s name could be withheld from the ballot.
Supporters of the bill said the bill was not aimed at President Barack Obama, but instead intended to defuse future debates about a presidential candidate’s qualifications. However, Obama would still be required to comply if he wants to be on the Arizona ballot in 2012 if the bill becomes law.
“If he decides to run in two years, then he should provide his information and he shouldn’t have a problem,” Burges said.
Four of the chamber’s 35 Republicans voted against the bill: Rich Crandall from Mesa, Russ Jones from Yuma, Vic Williams from Tucson and Adam Driggs from Phoenix. Crandall told Arizona Capitol Times the Federal Elections Commission already verifies the qualifications, so a state law would be redundant.
“We’re adding more and more responsibilities (for the secretary of state) with no funding – for something that somebody’s already doing,” he said.
The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote. If approved there, it goes to Gov. Jan Brewer.