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Arizona gives 'birthers' a dim flicker of hope

April 19, 2010 |  6:19 pm

How 'bout that Arizona legislature? Demonstrating that the best political myths have half lives that rival some radioactive isotopes, the state House of Representatives advanced legislation that would require future presidential candidates -- say, Barack Obama in 2012 -- to prove that they are citizens before their names can appear on the state's ballot. The proposal, which must still be considered by the state Senate, would require national political parties to submit "documents that prove that the candidate is a natural-born citizen, prove the candidate's age and prove that the candidate meets the residency requirements for president of the United States as prescribed in Article II, Section 1, Constitution of the United States." It goes on to give the Arizona secretary of state the discretion to keep a candidate's name off the ballot if he or she has "reasonable cause" to believe the candidate doesn't meet those requirements.

Open season, "birthers"! The proposal -- which was an amendment to a bill modifying how candidates' names appear on Arizona's ballot -- came from state Rep. Judy Burges of Skull Valley, a sparsely populated ranching community in the central part of the state. Evidently Burges missed the memo from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in January that characterized the citizenship issue as a loser for GOP candidates. Meanwhile, mainstream Republicans in California seem to be distancing themselves from birthers -- witness how organizers at a huge "tea party" rally in Pleasanton on April 15 rescinded their invitation to birther litigant Orly Taitz after complaints from the GOP candidates who were scheduled to share the stage with her.

I hope Arizona enacts Burges' proposal, just so birthers could sue the secretary of state in 2012 for refusing to disqualify Obama. (I'm assuming that Arizona's secretary of state at the time will be rational; the current one certainly seems to be, but his term ends this year.) They'll no doubt argue that the certificate of live birth Obama has already made public isn't sufficient proof (or is fictitious), or that a "natural-born citizen" cannot have a Kenyan citizen for a father. See Philip Berg's futile challenge to Obama's election for more potential birther arguments.

Chances are the federal courts would toss out the law for being an unconstitutional imposition of state eligibility requirements on federal candidates. But if they didn't, we might actually get a federal judge to say in more convincing fashion what Snopes.com laid out clearly a year and a half ago. Not that birthers would give up, mind you. Anybody who can read the 14th Amendment and argue that someone born in the United States to a U.S. citizen isn't a citizen just won't take "no" for an answer.

-- Jon Healey

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