LINCOLN — President Obama won an electoral vote from Nebraska in 2008 but couldn’t seek re-election in the state under a bill heard by lawmakers Thursday.
Legislative Bill 654 would bar Obama’s name from appearing on the Nebraska ballot because his father was not a U.S. citizen.
The measure requires presidential and vice presidential candidates to prove they are eligible for the nation’s highest office before they could be candidates in Nebraska.
LB 654 is among a dozen pieces of legislation introduced around the country in response to questions about Obama’s citizenship.
State Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, the bill’s introducer, said LB 654 would “instill confidence in the election process by assuring voters that candidates for the highest offices in the land have been properly vetted by government officials.
“No such process currently exists on the federal or state level,” he said in a statement of intent.
But LB 654 goes further than many other proposals and further than current interpretations of what the Constitution requires.
The U.S. Constitution requires the president to be a “natural-born citizen,” as well as 35 years old and a 14-year U.S. resident.
Christensen’s bill requires that candidates produce documents showing they are U.S. citizens by birth and that both of their parents were U.S. citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth.
Nellie Ristvedt of Crete supported the bill, citing legal sources that define “natural born” as being born on U.S. soil to citizen parents.
By that definition, she said neither GOP candidate John McCain nor Obama were qualifed as candidates. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, although to U.S. citizens.
Ristvedt said “natural born” hasn’t been clearly defined by the courts, which have rejected repeated challenges of Obama’s citizenship.
She said LB 654 would provide the basis for a lawsuit to clarify the term.
“The issue is the rule of law,” she said.
But Sen. Scott Price of Omaha questioned why Nebraska should pass a law so it could be challenged in court, thus forcing the state to bear the expense of fighting a lawsuit.
Richard Hedrick of Lincoln opposed the bill, saying it was unnecessary and designed to pacify the so-called “birthers.”
LB 654 would require presidential candidates to provide certified copies of their birth certificates, a key demand of those who believe Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
The belief persists although Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed that Obama was born in that state and his birth certificate has been made public.
Nebraska is one of at least 12 states where legislation has been introduced this year seeking more documentation of a president’s citizenship. In Iowa, GOP Sen. Kent Sorenson introduced a measure last week to require anyone running for president to produce a birth certificate.
Measures in Montana, Arizona and New Hampshire have failed. Proposals are pending in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Connecticut, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Maine.
Nebraska’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee took no immediate action on the bill.
It is unlikely to find the votes to advance, although Christensen’s legislative aide, Dan Wiles, said the senator would be willing to delay its implementation to the 2016 election to avoid the Obama controversy.
Wiles said the senator doesn’t believe candidates need to have been born to U.S. citizens, but he included that requirement in the bill to provoke discussion.
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