Government

Running for President Prove Your Citizenship

p>Being asked for some sort identification is a daily occurrence for most of us. You may be asked to show your driver's license or state ID to buy alcohol or tobacco, to withdraw or deposit money at the bank and maybe even before you're allowed to vote. Arizona is set to take things one big step further.

Arizona's "Birther Law"

Arizona's state legislature passed a bill in 2011 that will require candidates running for President to prove their US citizenship before they can be placed on the state's election ballots. An official birth certificate from a state agency is preferable, but other forms of proof include a:

  • Hospital birth record
  • Post-birth medical record
  • Baptismal or circumcision record

Arizona officials deny the claim made by some that the law targets President Obama. During the 2008 election, questions were raised about the President's citizenship and specifically whether or not he was in fact born in Hawaii. The controversy has never really died out either. Individuals and groups continue to demand to see his birth certificate in 2011 - three years into his first term as President.

Unless Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoes the bill, it will go into effect when she signs it, or on April 21 if she does nothing at all.

The Law May Pose a Problem for the President

Whether or not the law is targeted at the President, he may have a problem in the 2012 election. If he can't produce his birth certificate or some other acceptable form of proof of his citizenship, his name may not be included on Arizona's ballot. Arizona has 10 electoral votes, and the President carried the state in the 2008 election.

A Legal Battle Looms

Like other recent Arizona laws, the birther law will face legal challenges if it does in fact become law. The major question is whether Arizona - or any other state, for that matter - has the authority to place any type of restrictions on candidates for federal offices.

The US Constitution specifically states the President must be a natural born US citizen, but it says nothing about proof of citizenship. It also sets out in detail how the President is elected, with the whole process being governed by Congress and the Electoral College.

Nowhere are the states given any power in setting the qualifications for Presidential candidates, which is what the birther law essentially does.

There's nothing wrong, per se, with wanting to protect the integrity of the election system and making sure only those qualified for an office can hold that office. But when there's no historical record of any Presidential candidate's citizenship being called into question, it makes one wonder why Arizona chose to act now.

Hopefully, the state's lawmakers had good intentions. Time - and probably the courts - will tell if the law will serve those good intentions.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Are birth certificates public records?
  • Can states pass laws or constitutional amendments requiring proof of citizenship for candidates running for state office?
  • Can a naturalized citizen run for President?

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