Arizona To Ban Pres. Obama's Name From Ballot?
Here we go again. Arizona Secretary of State considers leaving Pres. Obama's name off of the voting ballot as he still questions the president's legitimacy. Isn't this a perfect definition for UNPATRIOTIC and ANTI-DEMOCRATIC? The Arizona experiment in lunacy government continues to wield some strange outcomes. One must wonder if this is the voice of the party at large?
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he's not a "birther." In fact, he says, he believes President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Yet the state's No.2 elected official has waded into the highly charged controversy, asking the island state to verify the president's birthplace to ensure Obama can appear on Arizona's Nov.6 ballot.
In doing so, Bennett, who is co-chairman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign, has reignited the birther debate coast to coast.
Bennett said he is simply trying to verify the information at the request of a constituent. But critics said it amounts to "political pandering."
Bennett, who is exploring a 2014 gubernatorial run, told The Arizona Republic on Friday that he could not recall the name of the constituent who made the request. Documents obtained through a public-records inquiry show Bennett's office in early March began communicating with individuals asking the office to look into Obama's birth following an investigation by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Bennett said Hawaii statute allows out-of-state government officials to request such information but prohibits residents from obtaining it.
Bennett said he made the request about eight weeks ago and asked that Hawaii officials provide "verification" of Obama's birth in lieu of a certified copy of the president's birth certificate.
Hawaiian officials have repeatedly confirmed that Obama was born in their state but some people continue to claim that he was born in Kenya, his father's homeland. In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the Obama campaign requested his birth certificate from Hawaii and later posted a copy of the "certification of live birth" on the White House website.
As secretary of state, Bennett oversees elections.
"I was just trying to put this thing to bed and agree to a constituent's request, which I'm allowed to do," Bennett said Friday. "This is a constituent from Arizona, whom I work for. I am the chief elections official, and I am responsible for elections, and I make the list that these people qualify for the ballot."
Bennett said the request to Hawaii is not connected to his anticipated run for governor. He said he has not made similar requests of other presidential candidates but would do so if he received a constituent request.
"I know some blogs have said that this is pandering to the birthers. But the two have nothing to do with each other," he said, referring to a gubernatorial run.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment. The Obama campaign in Arizona, however, released a statement saying the president's name will appear on the ballot.
"Secretary of State Bennett's flirtation with a conspiracy theory that has been debunked time and time again will have no bearing on the election, but it does present an opportunity for Mitt Romney to finally rise to the occasion and denounce the extreme voices in his party," said Mahen Gunaratna, Arizona communications director for Obama for America.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said Bennett had bowed to pressure from "tea party" birthers.
"This is just blatant political pandering," he said in a statement. "He is jeopardizing the integrity of our election system to appease a fringe movement."
It is not the first time Arizona's involvement in the issue has made national headlines. In April 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer shot down an effort by the Legislature to require presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship to get on the state's ballot. In her veto letter, Brewer said the bill "creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona."
In March, Arpaio announced that a six-month investigation by volunteers had found significant irregularities with Obama's birth certificate and his Selective Service card.
A short time later, state lawmakers failed in an attempt to pass a law requiring presidential candidates to sign an affidavit swearing that they meet the federal requirements for the job before they can qualify to be on the state's ballot.
During last year's debate, Bennett said it would be best if the federal government handled the job of ensuring the eligibility of presidential candidates. "But it seems to be obvious that they must not have a process sufficiently implemented at the federal level, or we wouldn't still be having questions about the president's birth status," Bennett told the Associated Press in January 2011.
Campbell criticized Bennett's involvement in the Romney campaign, saying the state's elections chief is "playing games" with the election itself.
John J. "Jack" Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, said conflict is built into Arizona's secretary-of-state position because it is an elected post. However, he said Bennett's role with the Romney campaign doesn't add a layer of conflict, "although, certainly, when a secretary of state is involved in national politics, the other side is going to criticize that person."
Brewer has said she believes Obama was born in the United States. Her spokesman on Friday would not comment further, saying, "The governor has made her thoughts clear on this issue."
Bennett said the governor could not intervene in his actions as secretary of state.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Obama's opponent in the 2008 presidential race, said Friday, "The president of the United States is not going to be taken off the ballot."
Arizonans like Elaine Gold support Bennett's verification attempts. She said she began to have serious questions about Obama's background after researching him online to determine if she wanted to vote for him.
"There are YouTubes where Michelle Obama is out there speaking about their trip to Kenya to promote AIDS testing and she said something like, 'We went to Kenya, Barack's home country,'" Gold said. "Maybe she misspoke. But there are just too many lingering questions about Barack Obama."
Bennett's spokesman, Matt Roberts, said the agency regularly receives e-mails and petitions from birthers to review Obama's background. The communications spiked following Arpaio's investigation.