Arizona Senate Passes ‘Birther’ Bill

Arizona moved one step closer yesterday to becoming the first state to pass legislation inspired by those who believe the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama is not eligible to be President, despite the fact that it is most likely unconstitutional:

Arizona’s state Senate approved a bill  Wednesday that will require presidential candidates to prove they are U.S. citizens before they can be included on a state ballot.

Prompted by challenges to President Barack Obama’s citizenship and, therefore, eligibility for the job, the bill passed 20-9 in the Senate, and now moves to the state House for a final vote before heading to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.

The legislation, a revised version of an earlier bill that would have required each candidate to provide a “long-form” birth certificate, also gives candidates the option of instead providing two of the following documents: an early baptismal or circumcision certificate, a hospital birth record, a postpartum hospital record for the mother or an early census record.

A different version of the bill has already passed the Arizona House, so it seems likely that this bill will be sent to Governor Jan Brewer, who has yet to take a public position on this issue.

Dave Weigel explains the consequences if the bill becomes law:

That’s for every candidate, so only Donald Trump can qualify for the ballot as of right now. This has been written so that Barack Obama’s certificate of live birth, which does not include the name of the hospital and attending physician, does not count.

In other words, under this law, Barack Obama would be barred from appearing on the ballot in Arizona. Of course, he’s not going to win Arizona anyway, but the Constitutional implications of such a development shouldn’t be discounted. This what the birther nonsense has come to, and the idea that it might actually end up becoming law should, I think, concern everyone.


FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Chad S says:

    This is why we have federal courts.

    And a state can block who can appear on a ballot, but they can’t decide who’s eligible to be President.

  2. Simon says:

    I don’t think it’s even slightly concerning. If the bill passes, Obama will file his birth certificate and that will be that. If he isn’t able to provide one meeting the (not unreasonable) requirements, which I doubt,* that will also be that. Either way, I fail to see even the slightest problem.

    *I.e., I am sure that he can.

  3. Simon says:

    Chad, so your theory is that it’s like US Term Limits v. Thornton, right?

  4. DC Loser says:

    At this point, giving Arizone back to the Mexicans and letting the narcos run it would be less of an embarrassment.

  5. alkali says:

    For what it’s worth, as I observed in the comments to Weigel’s post, Trump’s certificate is not sufficient. Among other things, it does not have signatures of witnesses in attendance at his birth, and it does not provide information sufficient to determine the citizenship of his mother.

  6. Chad S says:

    Simon, basically yes. Arizona could block him from appearing on the ballot, but they would have to count write in votes for him.

  7. Chad S says:

    *assuming that Obama doesn’t have hawaii submit a copy of his birth certificate to arizona.

  8. matt says:

    I find it concerning. According to the standards required I wouldn’t be allowed to run for president either despite being born in Illinois. My COLB doesn’t provide all the information that they are demanding it provide..

  9. Simon says:

    Chad, isn’t Thornton somewhat different insofar as Congress is given the power to judge a Congressional candidate’s qualifications and election yet no cognate power in Article II, and whereas in Thornton and Powell the issue was legislative authority to add qualifications (de facto or de iure), here the issue is enforcing an existing qualification?

    I don’t understand your theory that Arizona would have to count write-in votes. Where does that requirement come from? Let’s be clear about this: the states don’t have to have a ballot at all. The legislative authority to appoint electors is plenary, so any obligation to count write-in ballots would surely be a product of state law alone, no? To say that the federal constitution requires it would require the conclusion that a later amendment eliminated that authority sub silentio, which is quite a reach, even under the most Breyerian theory of the Constitution.

  10. Southern Hoosier says:

    Simon says: Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 13:15
    I don’t understand your theory that Arizona would have to count write-in votes.

    Mickey Mouse always gets his votes counted. He just never gets enough to cause a real issue.

  11. Southern Hoosier says:

    I have faith in Comrade Obama, the Great One. He will sue Arizona and liberal judges will support him.

  12. jfxgillis says:

    People. Read the other parts of the Constitution. And the fine print on the ballots for President.

    There’s no such thing as a “Presidential candidate.” We do not elect Presidents. We elect Electors, then they elect the President.

  13. legion says:

    matt raises a good point – the definition of a birth certificate & what info goes on it is not federally defined – states set their own standards, just like for drivers’ licenses & other state-generated documents. Has Arizona just built a law that effectively limits ‘acceptable’ Presidential candidates to people who were born in Arizona (or to ‘Arizona’ standards, whatever those may be)?

  14. jfxgillis is right. We don’t vote for Presidential candidates, we vote for slates of Electors who then vote for Presidential candidates in December of the Presidential election year.

  15. Chad S says:

    What jfxgillis said.

    And I’m very certain that write-in votes in ballot spots which ask for write-in votes are counted in each state that uses them.

  16. Southern Hoosier says:

    How would that work? If Comrade Obama, the Great One, is kept off the State ballot, but the Electors vote for him anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Electors free to vote however they chose?

  17. JWest says:

    Wikipedia says:

    In some states, in past years, this pledge was informal, and an Elector could still legally cast their electoral ballot for whomever they chose. More recently, state legislatures (exercising their constitutional authority to do so) have mandated in law that Electors shall cast their electoral college ballot for the Presidential Candidate to whom they are pledged.

  18. mantis says:

    If this law were passed, citizens possessing an Arizona birth certificate, as currently issued, would be ineligible to run for president. It doesn’t have all that info on it.

  19. Pug says:

    A circumcision certificate? What the hell is that?

    How does that prove where someone was born?

  20. MarkedMan says:

    I was just looking at my kids Maryland birth certificates, the official ones. They wouldn’t be eligible.

    This is what the government of Arizona focuses on? What a bunch of losers.

  21. jukeboxgrad says:


    I fail to see even the slightest problem.

    The entire birther movement has failed to come up with a single verifiable example of someone obtaining a “long form” from HI in recent years (i.e., the last decade or more). The best it has been able to do is nicely summarized here:

    The ‘evidence’ there consists of the Nordykes, who have shown photostats that are obviously about 50 years old, and precisely two other examples, both of which hide the most basic information: the name of the child. Those two other examples are therefore completely unverifiable, and seem to be shoddy Photoshop jobs.

    So you don’t “see even the slightest problem” with expecting HI to issue a document that it has declined to issue for anyone else, in recent years? What is the legal authority Obama is supposed to use to get them to do something for him that they won’t do for anyone else?

    And there are good reasons for HI to not do that, including what I discussed here:

  22. AllenS says:

    Wait a minute. Father’s race “African”. If the father would have been a white man from Rhodesia, or a white man from South Africa, would his race classification have been “African”? I was in the military in the 1960’s, and I’ve looked up casualties of soldiers that died in the Viet Nam war, and “African” was never used to classify a race. Negro, yes, but not “African”. My BS detector is going off.

  23. PHB says:

    This is such a silly issue and it is going to hurt the GOP badly in the campaign. The biggest liability the GOP has is their angry brigade and the birther laws will ensure that the angry brigade is on full display during the primaries.

    Obama will be on the Arizona Democratic Party primary ballot and he will win. Voters vote for the electors in the general election but they vote for the candidates in the primaries.

    The Federal courts will take about 15 minutes to throw the bill out and order Obama’s name to be put on the ballot. Under the constitution the state of Arizona does not get to decide the correct forms of credential that may be issued by the state of Hawaii. Its called the full faith and credit clause, go look it up.

    As far as the legal forms are concerned, if the state of Hawaii says that Col Gaddaffi was born in the US, the state of Arizona is required to accept that claim as rebuttable fact. Rebuttal in this case meaning that opponents would have to bring evidence that contradicted the claim made which of course the birthers cannot and will not do.

    In addition to the unconstitutionality of the bill, Arizona is one of the states still covered by the Voting rights act and does not have the right to pass bills of this type. It was taken away from the state by the federal government in 1965 because of the state’s earlier history of this type of racist inspired bull shit.

    Of course this is about race and of course the birthers are racists, thats just how they roll. And the birthers have made sure that their little race card will be on full display in the 2012 race. It won’t have any effect on the Presidential race but it will likely cost them several seats in the Senate and House.

  24. AllenS says:

    Would Rory Sabbatini and Earnie Els’ racial classification be African? When did African become a race?

  25. AllenS says:

    Here’s a web site for casualties of the Viet Nam war:

    You can look at any state that you want, and you’ll never see anybody’s race as African. Negro, yes, but back then nobody called “black” people African. In fact, back then nobody called black people black. The term African American was coined years later.

    What race are you? French? German?

    Check out the racial classification of the KIA from Hawaii. You’ll see something that I doubt any of you ever thought possible.

  26. jukeboxgrad says:


    If the father would have been a white man from Rhodesia, or a white man from South Africa, would his race classification have been “African”?

    If he had been “a white man from South Africa” who considered his race to be African, then his race classification would have been African. His “race classification” would have been whatever he considered himself to be. Your stupid complaint was fully addressed years ago, here:

  27. AdrianS says:

    The Huffpo has an article whose (misguided) title is:
    Arizona Birther Bill Is Unconstitutional, Legal Scholars Say
    Dated: 04-15-2011


    However …. (sorry “Legal Scholars”) …
    From Wikipedia:


    The PFP’s first national convention to nominate candidates for President and Vice President was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan on August 17-August 18, 1968. Eldridge Cleaver was nominated for President over Richard C. “Dick” Gregory by a margin of 161.5 to 54. Cleaver, a convicted felon and Black Panther spokesman, was technically not eligible to run since he was only 34 years old at the time. Due to the needs of the state parties to collect signatures, the party fielded several different vice presidential nominees, including Chicago activist Peggy Terry, activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, radical economist
    Doug Dowd, and Judith Mage, who had been nominated at the national convention. Cleaver personally preferred Yippie leader Jerry Rubin. Gregory formed a competing Freedom and Peace party and ran separately. Two states (California and Utah) refused to list Cleaver on the ballot, although each state listed the Presidential Electors and candidates for Vice President (Terry in California and Gonzales in Utah).



    It’s interesting to see how all of Obama’s minions are scattering and fluttering around like chickens with their heads cut off, worried about the effect of Arizona’s law. Why? Is it that Obama really doesn’t have a long-form birth certificate? I guess not. Because why else would Obama’s followers even worry? Obama has a birth certificate. Right? Or, NOT.

    If Obama does not qualify by refusing to send his long-form birth certificate to Arizona, then what does that say to the American public about who he really is, or isn’t? There are at least 13 states also considering a law in their states similar to Arizona’s law (that is supportive of and upholds the Constitution of the United States); perhaps there will be at least 7 or more passed. Obama perhaps thinks he can do without those states; and with what people will think is the reason he does not send in his birth certificate.

  28. jukeboxgrad says:

    Is it that Obama really doesn’t have a long-form birth certificate?

    It is indeed true that “Obama really doesn’t have a long-form birth certificate,” in the sense that this document is not in his possession. It’s in the possession of the state of Hawaii.

    If Obama does not qualify by refusing to send his long-form birth certificate to Arizona

    Obama is not “refusing to send his long-form birth certificate to Arizona.” Obama’s “long-form birth certificate” is not in his possession. It’s in the possession of the state of Hawaii, and he is not in a position to get it, because HI no longer issues that certificate, or copies of that certificate, and hasn’t done so for years.

    Instead, they issue a different document, which has exactly the same legal meaning. That’s why WSJ said this:

    Obama has already provided a legal birth certificate demonstrating that he was born in Hawaii.

    what people will think is the reason he does not send in his birth certificate.

    There is no need for him to “send in” anything further, because “Obama has already provided a legal birth certificate demonstrating that he was born in Hawaii.”

    And another reason for him to not “send in” a “long-form birth certificate” is that he has no such thing in his possession, and he has no legal means of obtaining it.

  29. David says:

    It seems crazy to me that Donald Trump’s popularity has increased so much in the last few weeks just because of Obama’s birth certificate. Such a trivial issue has won over a number of much more important ones such as our national security or economy?

  30. jukeboxgrad says:

    The group being surveyed is not people in general, or voters in general. It’s people who vote in GOP primaries. So we’re not finding out that everyone is nuts. We’re finding out that the base of the GOP is nuts. But we already knew that.

    That group is easily fascinated by shiny objects. Until recently, that was Palin. Now it’s Trump.

    The candidates all going to be under a lot of pressure to outdo each other in nuttiness, so it’s going to be interesting to watch. Is Palin now going to tilt more towards the birthers, following Donald’s lead? I’m guessing that she might.

  31. david says:

    Simon and others. Even with the law, Hawaii will ONLY give Obama a copy of the certificate of live birth. All state officials have attested to the fact that NOBODY can get a copy of the actual BC, and if someone DOES request it, they will only get the live birth certificate.
    I hope AZ spends a TON of money defending this non-sense bill. Brewer did the right thing to veto, but they can override.