A Phoenix Republican is making a last-ditch push Tuesday to allow any Arizonan to force Barack Obama -- or any presidential candidate -- to come to court here to defend the legitimacy of his candidacy.
Rep. Carl Seel is pressuring Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, to clear the way for a floor debate on his bill authorizing such lawsuits. Seel said Pierce is refusing to yank the bill from a Senate committee that has run out of time to hear it.
But Pierce said Monday he cannot bring HB 2480 to the Senate floor until Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who chairs the Committee on Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform, where the bill is assigned but has not been heard, gives her permission.
Barto, however, said she will not do that until Seel shows her he has the votes for approval of the measure on the Senate floor. Barto said there was no reason to engage in a divisive floor debate without some assurance the concept has the necessary votes.
So Seel is trying to round up that support today with a press conference with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Seel promised that Arpaio, who already has raised questions about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate, will have new evidence.
Hanging in the balance is a controversial bill to require national political parties to submit an affidavit, signed by the candidate under penalty of perjury, that the person meets all the legal requirements to hold the office.
But the real heart of HB 2480 allows any Arizona voter to challenge an affidavit, "including the facts or legal conclusions contained in the nomination paper and affidavit.'' And that would send the case to a state judge.
That goes not only to the long-debated issue of whether there is verifiable documentation of the place of the candidate's birth.
It also could put a state judge in the position of determining whether someone is a "natural born citizen'' as required under the U.S. Constitution and not merely a citizen. And some have argued that Obama is not because his father was not a U.S. citizen.
Seel introduced the measure in the House earlier this session.
But Speaker Andy Tobin never even assigned it to a committee for a hearing. He pointed out that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar measure last year, saying he sees no point in another attempt.
So Seel struck the measure onto an unrelated measure dealing with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System which had already passed the House and was being heard by the Senate Committee on Government Reform. It passed on a 4-2 vote.
But because the bill initially dealt with a health issue, it was also assigned to Barto's committee.
There are no more meetings of her committee scheduled. And Pierce said she gets to decide whether to surrender control of the measure.
Seel said the measure is not specifically aimed at Obama or even the presidential race, pointing out its provisions would apply to anyone seeking office. But he acknowledged that the measure stems from questions about the president's qualifications.
Under the terms of the legislation, anyone filing suit to knock a presidential contender off the Arizona ballot would have the burden of proof to show that person is ineligible to hold office. Seel said, though, once a lawsuit were filed, then the defendant -- in this case, the president -- "would have to answer subpoenas and prove that he or she is qualified.''
How that is done becomes more complex.
"Let's say, for example, the person that's in the White House produces the birth certificate that's on the White House (web) page,'' Seel said. The Obama administration has posted a copy of what it says is his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii.
Seel said that birth certificate would then be subject to forensic evaluation.
"If, forensically it comes up short, as Sheriff Joe's investigation shows it comes up short, then, arguably, that person would not be on the ballot,'' he said.
Seel said it's irrelevant that the former governor of Hawaii has said the birth certificate is genuine. He said the document should be evaluated in Arizona.
"It's clearly a power of the states to conduct the elections,'' Seel said. Nor was he dissuaded by a possible legal challenge.
"I welcome the day that we'll be once again in court with the federal government, just like we are with (SB) 1070,'' the 2010 law adopted to give state and local police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the legality of that measure next month.