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Arizona Revives 'Birther' Bill

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The bill, SB1157, would require presidential candidates to provide documentation "to prove that the candidate is a natural born citizen, prove the candidates age and prove that the candidate meets the eligibility and residency requirement for President of the United States as prescribed in Article II, Section 1, Constitution of the United States." If the candidate cannot provide the necessary documentation, the Secretary of State is charged with withholding their name from being listed on the ballot.

The bill also stipulates that candidates provide a "long-form" birth certificate.

This is not the first time Republican State Rep. Judy Burges, who introduced the bill, has attempted to pass "birther" legislation. She introduced a similar amendment last year, which passed a vote in the House but then died in the state Senate.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Burges said the legislation wasn't specific to the presidency -- it would apply to all state and federal candidates in Arizona -- and even claimed a need to keep illegal immigrants off the ballot.

"It's essential that as candidates running for the office, we bring back the integrity to the office and that we show that we qualify to serve in the position that we are running for, whether it's city council, whether it's for the legislature, whether it's for a statewide office or if it's for the President of the United States," she said.

Burges decided not to include an amendment that would have stopped the bill from going into effect until after the 2012 election. Under pressure from critics, legislators proposing a similar bill in New Hampshire recently used that strategy in an attempt to sidestep criticism. (The bill was ultimately defeated in committee, anyway.) Georgia lawmakers have also tweaked their presidential birth-certificate bill to delay its implementation until after the next election.

Arizona's Committee on Government approved Burges' bill with a 5-1 vote. State Rep. Eric Meyer (D), the sole legislator to vote no on the bill, asked Burges why she didn't want to wait until after the next election. Her response? There's never a good time to start.

"There's always someone currently in office who we're going to be asking to show their qualifications to run for office," she said.

Meyer also voiced skepticism about the motivation behind the bill. "At the state level, if we want to require candidates to show certain things I think that's fine," he said. "I still think this stems in some way from the last election, the question over whether our president has a birth certificate that he can show, and it's been well documented that he does."

Speaking in support of the bill was Greater Phoenix Tea Party co-founder Kelly Townsend, who warned legislators not to shy away from passing bills because of controversy. "We are principled people who believe in the rule of law, and we are actively involved in all levels of government to establish accountability with our elected officials, including those seeking an elected office," she said. "I'm concerned, however, that accountability has lost its priority and has been replaced with fears of bringing controversy upon our state."