Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT)
POSTED: 11:58 a.m. HST, May 18, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 12:26 p.m. HST, May 18, 2012
WASHINGTON >> In a revival of the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth certificate, a state official in Arizona says it's "possible" that he'll hold Obama's name off the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials don't send him confirmation that the president was born there.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican who is exploring a 2014 race for governor, says he waded into the issue after receiving more than 1,200 emails from people requesting that he verify Obama's birth in Hawaii before placing the president's name on the 2012 ballot.
"First of all, I'm not playing to the birthers," Bennett said in a radio interview with KFYI radio host Mike Broomhead. "I'm not a birther. I believe that the president was born in Hawaii — or at least I hope he was."
"But my responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the ballots in Arizona are correct and that those people whose names are on the ballots have met the qualifications for the office that they're seeking," he said.
Ever since Obama ran for president in 2008, some critics known as "birthers" have suggested, without proof, that he was born in Kenya. The Constitution states that only natural-born citizens can be elected president or vice president.
In an effort to put the issue to rest, the Obama campaign in 2008 released a certificate of live birth from the Hawaii Health Department. Still unsatisfied, Obama's detractors demanded release of his original birth certificate, which is not considered a public record under Hawaii law.
The White House posted a copy of the long-form version of his birth certificate last April. Doing so required the president to personally send a request to the Hawaii Department of Health. A White House official retrieved the certificate in person and copies of it were given to reporters and posted to the White House website.
"I have seen the original records filed at the Department of Health and attest to the authenticity of the certified copies the department provided to the president that further prove the fact that he was born in Hawaii," Hawaii Health Director Loretta Fuddy said in a statement at the time that the long-form birth certificate was released.
That sounds like the type of verification Bennett is seeking, but Bennett says he won't be satisfied until he hears it from a Hawaiian official personally.
Citing a Hawaii law that allows other government officials to request "verification in lieu of" — confirmation from the state that there is a birth certificate on file for an individual who claims to have been born there — Bennett said he sent a request after receiving a barrage of emails from constituents around the time that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched an investigation into Obama's birth certificate.
"I was frankly expecting that they would very quickly and very simply say 'yes,'" Bennett said. "Eight weeks later, they haven't said — I can't seem to get them to say 'yes.'"
Bennett said the state responded by asking him to send proof that he has the authority to request the information.
"All they've got to do is email me back saying 'yes,' and it's over," Bennett said. "I'm just stunned that they're making it so hard."
Bennett spoke about the matter in response to a story by the Phoenix New Times, which reported that Jerome Corsi, a leader of the birther movement, claimed to have received an "assurance" from Bennett that he would look into the issue.<
Asked if he would keep Obama's name off the state's 2012 ballot if Hawaii fails to fulfill his request, Bennett said: "That's possible. Or the other option would be I would ask all the other candidates, including the president, maybe to submit a certified copy of their birth certificate. But I don't want to do that."
Michael A. Memoli in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.