With only Republicans in favor, the state Senate voted Wednesday to require new proof of qualifications for presidential candidates who want to be on the ballot in Arizona.
The 20-9 vote came over objections from Democrats who questioned both the fairness and the legality of the measure. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, predicted that if enacted, HB 2177 would be struck down by the courts.
But Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, disagreed.
“This is an obligation the state has,’’ he said. “Verification is not only legitimate, it’s appropriate.’’
The legislation now goes to the House which has yet to vote on the concept.
Nothing in the measure specifically mentions incumbent Barack Obama. But there was no interest in the legislation until last year after some lawmakers said questions remain about whether he was born in the United States, one of the federal constitutional requirements to be president.
In fact, Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, who had the first version of the proposal, told Capitol Media Services she doubted he was born in Hawaii.
Senate approval came after lawmakers agreed to loosen the requirements somewhat.
As originally proposed, a candidate would have to produce a certified copy of a “long form birth certificate’’ which would have to include the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and any attending physician, and the signatures of any witnesses in attendance.
Senators accepted an amendment by Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, for alternatives for those who are legally qualified but do not have such a document. Instead, a candidate could produce a baptismal or circumcision certificate, a hospital birth record, a postpartum medical record or an early census record.
The Secretary of State, who would make the final determination of a candidate’s qualifications, also could accept a notarized affidavit from at least two people who witnessed the birth.
Sinema said while that makes the bill better, it doesn’t make it legal. She said the qualifications for president are spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.
“The state does not have the authority to require a candidate to provide more,’’ she said. “We are overstepping our bounds.’’
Sinema said if state lawmakers believe more proof is appropriate they should ask their counterparts in Congress to act.
She also said it is improper to give the Secretary of State the final say over whether a national candidate can appear on the Arizona ballot.
But Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said a candidate who is denied ballot status always would have the option to go to court.