OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Legislation that would require presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship to appear on an Oklahoma ballot was approved by the state House Wednesday — the same day President Barack Obama made public his detailed birth certificate.
Without debate, House members voted 77-13 in favor the measure, sending it to the Senate, which already has approved a version of the bill but must consider it again because of changes made in a House committee. Some House Democrats voted against the measure, but others voted with the Republican majority.
The bill is similar to legislation in about a dozen states pushed by so-called "birthers" who have questioned Obama's citizenship. State officials in Hawaii, where Obama's birth was recorded in 1961, and national Republican Party officials have discredited the questions about Obama's birthplace, and Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill last week.
The measure approved by the House would require candidates for most public offices to provide proof of identity and eligibility to hold the office they are seeking. That would mean candidates for president would have to provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship to the State Election Board to be placed on a primary election ballot. The bill does not spell out what would documents would be sufficient, but they would be made available to the public.
Obama produced a long-form birth certificate on Wednesday to answer those questioning whether he was born in the United States and eligible to hold office. He previously had released a standard short form of his birth certificate before he was elected in 2008.
The author of the Oklahoma bill, Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, indicated that the short-form birth certificate likely would be enough for a presidential candidate to prove citizenship under the Oklahoma bill.
Critics, including Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said the bill was part of a nationwide effort by conservatives to undermine Obama by questioning his citizenship and qualifications to be president.
"I disagree with this bill," Shelton said.
But Tibbs rejected claims that it was part of the "birther" movement.
"This is not a birther bill, has nothing to do with Obama," she said. Currently, candidates who do not meet residency requirements must be challenged by an opponent to be removed from the ballot.
"Is the current system broken?" Shelton said.
"I truly believe it is," Tibbs said.
Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, said the governor does not plan to comment on the measure until she has a chance to review it if it reaches her desk.
In releasing his birth certificate, Obama said the issue was a distraction from more important matters such as the nation's budget deficit and soaring gasoline prices.
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