TN Dem: Debate Over Cruz ‘Highlighted’ Eligibility Issue Addressed In New Bill

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January 22, 2016 11:02 a.m.
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Updated at 1:12 p.m.

Two Democratic Tennessee state legislators on Thursday introduced legislation that would prohibit the secretary of state from placing any presidential candidate who is not a “natural born citizen” on the Tennessee ballot, the Associated Press reported. The bill would also prohibit Tennessee electors to the Electoral College from voting for a candidate who is not a “natural born citizen.”

Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D), one of the bill’s sponsors, told TPM on Friday that the bill “isn’t about any one candidate,” but said that the questions surrounding Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) “highlighted” the issue for him.

“Certainly the debate that we’ve seen in the last few weeks about whether Sen. Cruz’s birth in Canada affects his eligibility highlighted this issue for us,” he told TPM when asked if Cruz’s birth motivated him to introduce the bill.

Yarbro said that now that it has become an issue in the Republican primary, this bill “ensures that the issue is settled” before the general election in November.

He said that he is not taking a position on the definition of “natural born citizen,” but noted that “scholars have weighed in on both sides.”

“It certainly appears that there’s a division of opinion on that issue,” he told TPM.

The state senator was unsure whether his fellow legislators will back his bill, but said he thinks “it’s hard to argue against the Tennessee ballot adhering to the Constitution’s requirements for the presidency.”

State Rep. Jason Powell (D), the other sponsor of the bill, told TPM that the legislation is necessary “to protect the integrity of our election here in Tennessee.” He said he was “hopeful” that the bill would pass and garner bipartisan support.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has recently faced skepticism that he is eligible to run for president. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother, which Cruz says qualifies him as a “natural born citizen.”

After rival Donald Trump questioned whether Cruz was eligible to run for president as a Canadian-born citizen, Republican politicians and legal scholars began to express doubt over whether Cruz has an open and shut legal case to be a “natural born citizen.”

In addition to directing the secretary of state not to place candidates on the ballot who are not “natural born citizens,” the bill includes a second section to keep the state’s electors to the Electoral College from voting for an ineligible candidate. The bill reads says that “the electors are prohibited from casting their ballot for any candidate who is not a natural born citizen.”

Read the bill, which Yarbro sponsored along with Rep. Jason Powell (D):

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