Ten months ago, I took Rep. Mark Hatfield to task for proposing an absurdly narrow bill in the Georgia House. HB 1516 would have required eligibility-proving affidavits from only two candidates out of every general election race in Georgia: the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.
I pointed out that the only way the bill could have been more directly targeted at President Barack Obama would have been for it to identify him by name.
Hatfield now has resurrected his proposal as House Bill 401. Although the bill no longer omits third parties or vice presidential candidates, it is still limited to just the presidential race.
Worse yet, the new bill is even more directly targeted at Obama. Hatfield’s list of mandated information reads like it was copied straight from a “birther” Web site. Of what legal significance is the name of the candidate’s delivery doctor? Or the birth places of the candidate’s parents?
Why would Hatfield desire the production of this irrelevant information? Because these are precisely the pieces of information that birther conspiracy theorists have demanded from Obama.
Hatfield also would require presidential candidates to file an affidavit “attesting that the candidate has never been a citizen of any country or nation other than the United States of America; [and] that the candidate has never held dual or multiple citizenship.”
Here, Hatfield has simply resorted to manufacturing new, extra-constitutional requirements for presidential candidates. There is not and never has been any constitutional rule mandating that the president “has never held dual or multiple citizenship.” This is pure birther fantasy, a nonexistent bit of pseudo law that an attorney such as Hatfield should know better than to promote.
Whether a person is born with a dual citizenship is entirely a function of foreign law. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s mother was Mexican. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was born to two Indian immigrants. Gen. Colin Powell was born to two Jamaican immigrants. Both of Ralph Nader’s parents were Lebanese immigrants.
Whether any or all of these men were ever endowed with a secondary citizenship depends wholly upon the citizenship laws of their parents’ home countries. George Washington himself was born a British citizen, and was named a French citizen while in office.
Italian law is particularly generous about extending Italian citizenship to the descendents of its expatriates. Former presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Tom Tancredo are both grandsons of Italian immigrants, and it’s possible that both held Italian citizenship at some point in their lives. If so, they would be excluded from the Georgia ballot under Hatfield’s bill.
Obama, meanwhile, would definitely be excluded. Obama was born with dual citizenship, and his Kenyan citizenship expired in his early 20s. But Hatfield wants to permit only candidates who “never held” dual citizenship.
As written, Hatfield’s bill would absolutely forbid the incumbent president of the United States from appearing on any 2012 presidential ballot in Georgia. This is guaranteed to result in a legal challenge.
And because the “no dual citizenships” requirement is nothing more than a birther delusion, the law will be struck down.
And that outcome will serve only to embarrass the state. As the House considers Hatfield’s bill, those representatives who have signed onto it need to pause and recognize just how unconstitutional it is.
Loren Collins, an Atlanta attorney, runs the anti-birther blog Barackryphal
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