Lawmakers: Obama ballot challenge unfairly denied

Last modified: 1/4/2012 12:00:00 AM
New Hampshire election law officials previously rejected their request to remove President Obama's name from the ballot in advance of next week's presidential primary, but that hasn't stopped several state representatives, who yesterday presented what they said was proof that officials had unfairly denied their challenge to the president's citizenship.

"Our complaint was denied, but there appears to be an inconsistency in the process of the challenge," said Rep. Larry Rappaport, addressing several reporters and a group of supporters at a press conference called on the eve of the new legislative session. The lawmakers demanded an investigation into Obama's eligibility to appear on the state's primary ballot.

In a new twist on the challenge made in November, when California attorney Orly Taitz appeared before the state Ballot Law Commission to question the veracity of Obama's birth certificates and Social Security number, Rappaport and other Republican representatives - including Lucien and Carol Vita, Harry Accornero and Laurie Pettengill - say the New Hampshire secretary of state's office has been inconsistent in evaluating whether candidates meet the citizenship requirement established by the U.S. Constitution.

The representatives - who say Obama isn't a natural-born citizen because his father was Kenyan - cite two instances from 2007 and 2011 in which prospective presidential candidates were told by the secretary of state's office they had to be natural-born citizens to appear on the ballot. They see a discrepancy between those actions and statements made during the November ballot law hearing by a representative of the secretary of state's office, which said its purview was restricted to ensuring that candidates properly filled out their paperwork and paid the requisite filing fee.

Given the precedent for denying a candidate based on citizenship, "we believe the secretary of state should launch an investigation," Rappaport said. He also filed an affidavit yesterday morning with the state attorney general's office describing a conversation he said he and the Vitas had in 2009 with Attorney General Michael Delaney, who told them Obama's citizenship was a question for the federal government and "refused to investigate," Rappaport said.

He and other supporters seemed to believe that giving the office that affidavit would lead to action. "They're going to be forced to do something about it, an obstruction of justice, now that they've been served with that information," said Mark Rossetti, a Manchester man who attended and said he helped organize the press conference.

But the attorney general's office doesn't plan to respond. "There's no request in it," said Associate Attorney General Richard Head, when asked about the affidavit yesterday. "I honestly can't figure it out."

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, meanwhile, said the examples cited by the representatives had far different circumstances than the challenges to Obama's eligibility. In the first situation, an Egyptian man who filed a declaration of candidacy in 2007 was disqualified after the man acknowledged he wasn't a natural-born citizen.

But the office didn't learn that as the result of an investigation, Gardner said. He couldn't remember how it came to his office's attention that the man was Egyptian, but when it did, the office called the man, and he said he didn't realize citizenship was a requirement, Gardner said.

In the second example, which happened in 2011, a man wrote to Gardner's office saying he met all the constitutional requirements to become president - except for being a natural-born citizen, Gardner said. The man had filed a federal lawsuit asking a court to overturn that requirement.

Assistant Secretary of State Karen Ladd sent the man a letter the next day saying the office would not accept a filing for a person who is not a natural-born citizen.

"If the person admits it, then we can take you off the ballot," Gardner said. "But if you don't admit it, we don't investigate. We don't deal with Social Security or try to find out. We've never done that."

The state Ballot Law Commission is charged with addressing challenges to a candidate's eligibility, but the complaint that was filed by Taitz and backed by the state representatives alleged criminal activity, which is beyond the commission's authority to decide, Gardner said.

Head said his office had received a request for a criminal investigation of Obama, "which we declined to do." He said complaints about the qualifications of a sitting U.S. president should be handled by Congress, and the attorney general's office would not be investigating questions about Obama's eligibility.

Representatives at yesterday's press conference repeatedly tried to distance themselves from the "birther" movement. They are "in no way making a consideration about where he was born," Rappaport said - and described their concerns as constitutional and nonpartisan in nature.

But state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who attended the event, disagreed with that characterization.

"There's no legitimate Democrat certainly north of the Mason-Dixon Line that is involved in any way with this," Buckley said.

(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or

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