More than three dozen Republican legislators want plan to require Barack Obama to produce an original birth certificate for Arizona officials if he intends to seek reelection.
HB 2544 would forbid the secretary of state from putting a presidential candidate's name on the ballot unless certain documents were first provided. These include a sworn statements outlining where the candidate has lived for the last 14 years, that the candidate does not hold dual citizenship and that the person's allegiance "is solely to the United States of America.''
But what worries Ken Bennett, the current secretary of state, is that he also would have to be furnished "an original long form birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician and signatures of the witnesses in attendance.'' Without that, he said, the measure would bar him from including the candidate's name on the ballot.
"I don't know that's on MY birth certificate, for goodness sakes'' said Bennett, who was born in Tucson.
Potentially more problematic, he said, is that each state has its own system of recording births. And Bennett, who is a Republican like all of the measure's 41 sponsors, is not sure that its even possible to get an "original'' birth certificate.
For example, he said, people seeking birth certificates from many states, often for passports or other documentation, are instead furnished with a "certificate of live birth.'' That usually takes the form of a state official certifying, under oath, that there are documents on file proving a specific person was born on a specified date.
That's not all, Bennett said, pointing to the requirement for the birth certificate to have the names of the attending physician and the signatures of witnesses.
"If you were delivered at home with a midwife, does that mean you are no longer qualified to be the president of the United States?'' he asked. "If there aren't any signatures of witnesses in attendance, you're no longer qualified?''
And what, exactly, is a "long form birth certificate,'' he asked.
"Is that a standard term of art that means the same thing in all 50 states?'' Bennett continued. "And is it even available in all 50 states?''
Officially speaking, the legislation crafted by Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, does not mention Obama. And Burges, who first sponsored a slightly different version of the measure last year, said it's not necessarily about Obama, though she admitted she doubts he was born in Hawaii as he claims, or that he can show he is a U.S. citizen.
"With what's happening throughout the world, that we need to make sure that our candidates are certifiable,'' she told Capitol Media Services when she introduced the first measure.
Burges managed to get the measure through the House last year. The bill died in the Senate.
That requirement for the "long form original,'' appears designed with Obama in mind.
Officials in Hawaii released a short-form version of the birth certificate when the issue first arose before the 2008 election.
When that failed to satisfy critics, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the state's health director, issued a statement saying he has "seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen.''
Bennett seems satisfied.
"I think he was born in Hawaii,'' he said. "I personally believe he is a U.S. citizen.''
Others sponsors of the legislation, though, apparently have their doubts.
Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, told KPNX this week he believes Obama -- and all presidential candidates -- should provide proof of their citizenship. Asked specifically if he believes Obama is a citizen, Seel responded, "I have questions about that.''
Bennett, acknowledging all the controversy, said he is sympathetic to the goal.
"I think we need a legitimate and verifiable process for candidates to demonstrate that they meet the qualifications,'' he said.
"In the case of the president's office ... the best place is at the federal level so that each state is not doing its own, different thing,'' Bennett continued. "But it seems, unfortunately obvious, that they've not sufficiently implemented such a process at the federal level or we wouldn't be having these questions.''
He added, though, that no process might be enough "in the minds of some people.''