“Birther” bills: alive & dead in state legislatures

Once again, Arizona is leading the way—backwards. On April 14, 2011, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2177, a “birther” bill that would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to produce documents proving they are natural-born citizens. Among documents considered legit, in addition to birth certificates,are: an early baptismal certificate, circumcision certificate, hospital birth record, postpartum medical record signed by the person who delivered the child or an early census record. [And yes, you read that right: “baptismal certificate or circumcision certificate.”]

Arizona’s law is the first passed in the US, but it may not be the last.[UPDATE: AZ Governor Jan Brewer, in a rare show of  judiciousness, vetoed the bill on April 18, 2011.] A dozen other states have introduced similar measures, obviously inspired by “birthers,” who continue to claim that President Barack Obama is not a US citizen.

Arizona’s near-miss may make it easier for other states to deliver [pun intended] their own versions of birth-certificate laws. Here’s a look at what’s happening in other states. [For a detailed and continuous update, check the Birther Bills chart at scribd.

Missouri HB 283, SB 282:

“…certification shall include proof of identity and proof of United States citizenship for each nominee.”

Missouri GOP state Rep. Lyle Rowland has framed his bill as a check against illegal immigration.  “We have problems with illegal immigrants. And if something were to happen where one of them became popular with the people, we need documents proving if they are a citizen,” said Rowland, who believes Obama is a “natural citizen of the United States.”

A similar bill introduced in 2009 was withdrawn. The House Elections Committee passed a revised version on April 15, 2011.

Nebraska Legislative Bill 654

Candidates for President and Vice-President must submit a signed affidavit swearing that, “I was born a citizen of the United States of America and was subject exclusively to the jurisdiction of the United States of America, owing allegiance to no other country at the time of my birth. On the day I was born, both my birth mother and birth father were citizens of the United States of America.”

This bill would bar President Obama’s name from appearing on the Nebraska ballot because his father was not a US citizen.  According to the Omaha World-Herald, “The bill goes further than many other proposals and further than current interpretations of what the Constitution requires.

Nebraska’s Government, Military and Veteran’s Committee has taken no action on the bill, and it’s not expected to garner enough votes to advance. Its sponsor says he is willing to put off consideration of the bill until 2016, to prove that it’s not about President Obama.

Oklahoma SB 91

Candidates for presidential primaries would have to “provide proof of natural-born United States citizenship upon filing with the state election board..and provide photo identification and proof of eligibility to hold office.” Documents required would be “an original birth certificate issued by a state, an original birth certificate issued by the federal government, an original United States Certificate of Birth Abroad, or an original Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator Ralph Shortey [R-Oklahoma City], claims that he’s not a conspiracy theorist. Nevertheless, he is quoted as saying, “The situation with our president has instigated this fear. I’m trying to quash that fear with this legislation.”

Ostensibly, the photo ID requirement brings candidate qualifications in line with the state’s  voter-photo-ID law passed in 2010. A Senate Committee passed SB 91 on April 8, 2011. It awaits a vote in the full Oklahoma Senate. It is expected to pass.

Texas HB 295 and HB 529

“The secretary of state may not certify the name of a candidate for president or vice-president unless the candidate has presented the candidate’s original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen.”

A later addition, HB 529, goes a step further, specifically requiring “the candidate’s original birth certificate indicating the name of the hospital and the physician of record; or…a document certifying the candidate’s birth in the United States.”

At least State Rep. Leo Berman [R-Tyler], who is sponsoring the Texas birther bills, doesn’t try to couch his motivation in coy, code language. He just comes straight out and says it: “This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place. Berman is sticking with his bill, despite a “shellacking” on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” last fall.

HB 529 was reported favorably out of committee on April 7, 2011. If passed by the Texas legislature, it would go into effect on September 1, 2011, six months before the Texas presidential primary. It’s expected to pass.

Connecticut Bill No. 391

The Secretary of State must be “presented with an original birth certificate of any candidate for the federal office of president or vice-president that certifies that the certificate holder is a natural-born United States citizen…”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Michael McLachlan, denies being a birther, but his language says otherwise: “I don’t consider this a birther bill. I believe this is a Presidential qualification bill. I’m taking it right out of the Constitution. It is very simple…My only point here, clear and simple, so we don’t have to listen to this any more is that if you’re going to be on the ballot, provide your birth certificate.”

Connecticut would seem an unusual place for a birther bill, because the state’s voters gave President Obama nearly 61 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. Still, the fact that such a bill was introduced in Connecticut says something about the perceived political value of this approach. Insiders see the odds of this bill passing as rather low. The chairman of the committee to which it was referred is quoted as saying: “I can’t imagine that members of the committee are going to want to spend time on this. I don’t know if this is one person’s opinion or concern or this is the arm of out-there people…This is just ridiculous.”

Georgia HB 401

The bill would require presidential candidates to sign an affidavit saying they have never held dual citizenship.

According to PolitiFact, this bill would create requirements for president that don’t exist in the U.S. Constitution, and would almost certainly be struck down by the courts.

At first, 93 Georgia state house members signed on as co-sponsors. After an op-ed appeared in the Atlanta Constitution challenging the bill’s constitutionality, at least 20 withdrew their support. Early in March, the bill’s sponsor changed the effective date of the bill to July 1, 2013, to show that it wasn’t about President Obama. In mid-March, the bill failed a critical vote and is presumed dead.


Indiana SB 114

Presidential candidates would be required to file a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate along with additional documentation.

Sponsor Mike Delph [R-Carmel], like other birther-bill sponsors, says the bill was not about President Obama. “It shouldn’t be that much of a problem for folks who want to be our commander-in-chief. We need to be sure they have the capability legally to take that oath of office to be the commander in chief.”

The bill died in committee in 2011, but its sponsor says it could come up again in 2012. It has been assigned to a summer study committee.

Maine LD 34

Candidates must show birth certificates in addition to driver’s licenses or other government-issued identification documents to qualify for the ballot.

Sponsor Richard Cebra [R-Naples] denied the bill’s birther roots.  “It’s ‘trust but verify,'” he said. “I don’t trust people. I prefer to verify what people do and who they are.”

A unanimous no vote in committee killed the bill for 2011.

New Hampshire HB 1245

Candidates must present a “long-form” birth certificate to quality for the ballot.

Claiming that the bill was not about President Obama, its sponsor has said, “I don’t know where the guy was born, I don’t care.”

Republican political leaders feared that a legal challenge to a birther bill could delay New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary [even though an amended version would not have taken effect until 2013]. It was defeated unanimously in committee in March 2011.

Arkansas HB 2020

Presidential  and Vice-Presidential candidates must prove they are eligible for the office for which they’re running, by demonstrating that they were born in the US.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Presidential wannabe,  has made some ambiguous statements about his views on President Obama’s origins, but has also said that the Republican obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate is “a waste of time and energy.”

HR 2020 could not garner enough votes to pass out of committee and died on March 30, 2011.

Tennessee SB 1091

Candidates would need to submit a “long-form” birth certificate to quality for the ballot.

Asked to explain her legislation on a Reality Check radio interview, one of the bill’s Republican sponsors admitted that she didn’t actually know what a long-form birth certificate is.

The bill died on voice vote in committee on April 5, 2011.

Montana HB 205

All candidates for federal office file would have to file affidavits with the Montana secretary of state verifying that they are qualified. Presidential candidates would be required to provide a valid copy of their birth certificates. Another requirement would be that candidates be born in a state or territory of the US.

During committee debate, a legislator offered an amendment requiring that candidates’ parents must both be US citizens—an amendment that the legislator himself disagreed with. [Makes you wonder who actually drafted the amendment, right?]

The bill was tabled in committee in February 2011.