Committee votes down birther bill

Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Deterred by the 'circus' surrounding the issue, a requirement that presidential candidates submit certified copies of their birth certificates was panned in the House Election Law Committee yesterday.

House Bill 1164 was sponsored by Republican Reps. Susan DeLemus of Rochester and Larry Rappaport of Colebrook, both of whom signed on to an effort last year to challenge President Obama's placement on the primary ballot because they doubt his Americancitizenship.

DeLemus said her bill does not take effect until January 2013, meaning it is not another attempt to keep Obama off the November ballot. The legislation initially required a certified copy of a candidate's original long-form birth certificate, but DeLemus said an amendment adopted yesterday reduced the requirement to a certified copy of a birthcertificate.

Still, the committee voted 14-3 to recommend the full House kill the bill when it comes up for a vote on the floor.

'If this is to be considered at a future time, it could be considered on the basis of its merits alone and not any association with the controversy we've experienced,' said Election Law Chairman David Bates, a Windham Republican, who voted against the bill. 'Quite frankly, with the circus that ensued around this more recently it's really impossible to adequately, objectively consider the policy merits of this with the fiasco the press made out of it.'

In November, Attorney General Michael Delaney requested an investigation into 'unruly' conduct by DeLemus and other Republican representatives after the state ballot law commission denied their appeal of Obama's primary eligibility.

Assistant Attorney General Matt Mavrogeorge said he and Assistant Secretary of State Karen Ladd locked themselves in an office in the Legislative Office Building out of fear for their safety.

Rep. David Pierce of Etna, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he had concerns that requiring a birth certificate could disenfranchise citizens who don't have the document for various reasons, such as being born in a remote location or into a family that objects to birth certificates for religious reasons.

Pierce said the November incident also weighed on his decision.

'Voting for that, I think, would only encourage criminal activity like that,' Pierce said. 'I think it was criminal what they did.'

Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, was one of the committee votes in favor of the bill. Baldasaro was one of the representatives named in Mavrogeorge's report upset about the decision to allow Obama on the ballot.

'It's no secret, of course, I was on board with some areas in the past with people coming into our state without any type of birth certificate,' Baldasaro told the committee. 'I just want to make sure you know this isn't for any political gain this year because it wouldn't go in until after the election.'

DeLemus said she was unaware until she challenged Obama's citizenship that 'there's no vehicle to uphold the requirements found in the Constitution' that a presidential candidate be a natural-born citizen.

'It's to shore up the Constitution and make sure we're sticking to the Constitution - that's the purpose of the bill,' DeLemus said.

DeLemus said she knew the bill wouldn't be popular.

'It's so controversial, I think a lot of people shied away from it,' she said.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or at mspolar@cmonitor.com)