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Pres. hopefuls could face certificate requirements

April 27, 2011

Presidential candidates would be required to furnish a birth certificate to Michigan authorities in order to appear on ballots in the state if a state representative has his way.

State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, introduced a bill containing such a requirement to the state House on Tuesday. It would, among other things, require candidates to furnish a hard copy of their certificate to the state at least 60 days prior to election day during presidential election years.

The bill comes less than two weeks after the Arizona Legislature approved a similar measure, though that bill ultimately was vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican.

The bill’s introduction also came a day before President Barack Obama released a full copy of his birth certificate in an attempt to quell detractors who have claimed he was born outside the U.S. and therefore is ineligible for the presidency.

But Callton denied his bill has anything to do with Obama or the others similar to it that have popped up in legislatures across the U.S. Instead, he said, the measure seeks to prevent further “birther” movements from arising.

“It will clarify things in the future, that if you’re going to run for president, and you want to run on the Michigan ballot, you’ve got to bring your birth certificate,” Callton said, adding he’s already caught some flak for the bill. “I’m not racist, and I’m not a nut — I’m just trying to help. I’m trying to clarify the situation.”

Callton’s bill might hold more water if he opened up the spirit and text of the bill to encompass more than just presidential candidates, said state Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing.

One typically does not need to be a born U.S. citizen to hold office, Meadows said, though those seeking office are required to sign an affidavit swearing their legal residency. By requiring documents rather than sworn statements, the bill could be more useful, he said.

But the laser focus on the office of the presidency might suggest pandering to the birther movement, Meadows said.

“If he’s going to go in this direction, he ought to really go in this direction and not just specifically make it for presidential candidates,” Meadows said.

Callton argues at least nine presidential candidates in history have had their citizenship called into question. He cited examples such as questions about the citizenship of 21st President Chester A. Arthur and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who lost to Obama in 2008 and who was born on a
U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone.

The fact Obama’s birth certificate now has been released will not cause Callton to rescind his bill, because, he said, similar birther movements are bound to pop up in the future.

In all, though, Obama releasing his birth certificate does not mean birthers are done pushing their agenda, said Benjamin Kleinerman, an assistant professor of political science at MSU.

“The conspiracy theorists are going to continue manufacturing their conspiracy theories,” Kleinerman said. “I think given that there’s now a real birth certificate … you’d have to prove that the birth certificate is false, which would be hard to do.”

The bill has been referred to the House Redistricting and Elections Committee. It will need to be passed there in order to be voted on by the full House.


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