15 Sep 2014
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Take the "Birther Bill" High Road

Following the lead of other states, Georgia aims to require presidential candidates to prove citizenship

Take the "Birther Bill" High Road

There have been lawsuits, websites, blogs, news feeds, and countless tabloid articles all devoted to whether President Barak Obama is a “real” American. 

The baseless questions surrounding Obama’s citizenship have fueled conspiracy theories and dovetailed into cries that he practiced Islam.

Apparently, Obama’s substantive qualifications matter not. Constitutional qualifications – natural citizenship among them – make for better TV.  After all, the man is from that suspect state out in the middle of the Pacific.  So the debate that shadowed Obama through the 2008 campaign continues on and likely will roll into the 2012 election cycle.

In the United States, the presidency is a virtue of birthright; namely, you have to be born here or you cannot be president. A birth certificate (which the Obama camp released during the campaign) should end the controversy. But disappointment lives in houses built of “should.”

State legislatures around the country have introduced so-called “Birther Bills” that require presidential candidates to provide documentation that they are natural-born citizens. 

Absent proof, the candidate cannot appear on the ballot in that state.  This ballot restriction clearly embraces the conspiracy theory that Obama was born in foreign lands – Kenya, Indonesia, or [fill in the blank with a random nation here].

Georgia is the latest state to add a Birther Bill to its legislative session. Backed by 94 Georgia lawmakers, the bill requires candidates seeking national office (president and vice president) to prove their citizenship before passing “go” on the Georgia ballot.

Under House Bill 401, the Secretary of State must receive “adequate evidence of such person’s eligibility for election” in order to be ballot-eligible.

In most circumstances, the requirements imposed by such a law – if it becomes that – are an afterthought. Presumably, most individuals seeking the upper echelons of national office (a) know the constitutional qualifications; and (b) have valid evidence of their citizenship. Moreover, a constitutional challenge to a Birther law may yield little more than a judicial bench slap, if that. A court could also determine that the law is merely a reasonable burden for a candidate to bear.

But the necessity of a Birther Bill is another matter. In a political era crippled by partisanship, anxiety, and fear mongering, this action fuels the fires of public discontent with our government.  

These bills are not aimed at bringing transparency and credibility to our elections. 

These are aimed at one person – Barak Obama – something that state legislators (at least in Oklahoma and Texas) shamelessly acknowledge.

Others tout the bill as a guard against illegal immigration. Really?!

I’m just not sure that I buy the line that a Birther Bill will protect us from the migrant farm worker who puts food on our tables every week but has secret intentions of taking the presidency by fraud.   

So, I challenge our legislature to take the high road and not sink to the level of blog-inspired law. Save the conspiracy theories for bedtime stories. Or, let’s propose a bill to redesign paper money because the Freemasons embedded secret messages in it.

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