JEFFERSON CITY • Candidates for president or vice president could be forced to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can appear on Missouri ballots, under legislation that has passed the state House.
The Republican-led chamber is sending the so-called “birther bill” to the Senate. It would have to pass the Senate and get the governor's signature before it could become law. Its chances are unclear at this point.
Rep. Lyle Rowland, a Republican from Cedarcreek, has said he sponsored the bill because he doesn’t think candidates are fully vetted under the current process, which primarily relies on political parties to verify whether they meet all requirements.
“This would just provide us with the verifying evidence,” Rowland said.
The verifying evidence would come in the form of copies of candidates’ birth certificates.
“We’re not requiring a great deal,” he said. “All we’re wanting is a copy of that for our records.”
Rowland and other supporters of the bill fended off allegations of racism and claims that the bill is directed at President Barack Obama, who has faced false allegations that he was not born in the United States.
Obama released a certified copy of his original Certificate of Live Birth last April.
Rowland repeatedly said his bill is not about Obama.
Rep. Wanda Brown, R-Lincoln, said she did not think of Obama when she first heard of the bill.
“The first time I was ever reminded of our current president it came from the Democratic side of the aisle,” she said.
But Democrats have been skeptical.
“We all know that this is a continuation of a long-ago discredited lie,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia.
If approved, Missouri could become the first state to require such documents. It would go into effect in time for the 2016 election.
Riding on the “birther movement” wave last year, Arizona lawmakers passed a similar measure, but the governor ultimately vetoed it. The issue is up for debate there again this year.