Bill would make presidential candidates prove citizenship
Tonganoxie representative proposes bill
Topeka A bill pending before the Kansas Legislature would require that President Barack Obama and other candidates prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the ballot.
The measure may be dead for this session but could emerge as an issue next year as the 2012 political campaign season gets under way.
House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, said Friday the bill may get a hearing in the next legislative session.
“We can have the debate and discuss it. I don’t think there is any harm in that,” Schwab said.
House Bill 2224 was introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie. It would require any candidate for national or state office to prove U.S. citizenship with a certified copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license or other government-issued identification.
“I proposed this bill because it is needed to protect our election and because it just makes common sense,” O’Brien said. “Non-citizens are not legally allowed to vote, and they surely shouldn’t be allowed to file for public office.”
She said estimates suggest there are as many as 20 million people in the United States illegally with possibly tens of thousands in Kansas.
Schwab said the bill never got a hearing because the committee was focused on working on legislation proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach requiring voter ID and proof of citizenship to register to vote. That bill was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Schwab said the candidate bill was prompted by so-called “birthers,” who say there is no proof that Obama was born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to president. Hawaii officials have certified that Obama was born there. The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be “natural born” U.S. citizens.
The bill is similar to an effort in Arizona where the Legislature there became the first in the nation to approve a proposal requiring presidential candidates prove their citizenship. But that bill was vetoed earlier this week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who said it gave the Arizona secretary of state too much power in determining the qualifications of all candidates when they file for office.
Asked if this bill was related to Obama’s candidacy, O’Brien said the bill “simply reinforces the U.S. Constitutional requirements.”
Earlier this month, a Wichita man petitioned state officials to keep Obama off the Kansas ballot in 2012, saying that the president has failed to prove he was born in the U.S. But the State Objections Board, chaired by Kobach, said the man’s petition was too early. Under state law, any challenge of a candidate being on the ballot must be made within three days of that candidate officially filing his or her candidacy in the state. In Obama’s case, that likely won’t happen until after the September 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Schwab said he didn’t count himself among those questioning Obama’s citizenship. He said he would rather the presidential debate focus on the economy. Brownback, a Republican, has also said that Obama is a U.S. citizen.
Kobach said he wouldn’t propose a candidate proof of citizenship bill but would enforce it if it passed.
“So far the Legislature hasn’t shown an interest in moving in that direction, but if they do and they assign my office the responsibility, I’ll do whatever I’m told to do,” Kobach said.
Earlier this year, O’Brien caused an uproar for a remark she made in testifying in support of a bill to repeal in-state tuition for some undocumented students.
O’Brien told a legislative committee that she witnessed a woman in line at a community college requesting scholarship money, but the woman said she had no photo ID.
O’Brien told the committee that the woman, who O’Brien said was not from the U.S., was going to get financial assistance, and O’Brien’s son, who was born and raised in Kansas, wasn’t.
“We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was. We didn’t think that was proper, but we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country,” O’Brien said.
Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, had asked O’Brien how she could tell, and O’Brien replied, “She wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.”
Democrats criticized her remark. At first, O’Brien said they were making a big deal out of nothing, but later she said she could understand how her remarks could be misconstrued and apologized.