Posted on | December 1, 2011 | No Comments
Pettengill questions whether Obama is eligible to be on ballot
CONWAY — A local lawmaker who is part of “birther” push in Concord said last week she is skeptical President Obama’s is eligible to have his name appear on New Hampshire ballots.
“I don’t know,” Laurie Pettengill (R-Glen) said in a phone interview, although she would not say whether she considers herself a “birther” or not.
“Birthers” insist President Obama is not eligible to hold the presidency of the United States, usually arguing he is not a natural born United States citizen. Most mainstream politicians reject the “birther” storyline, but the movement still has supporters. Pettengill was one of a handful of Republican state representatives to sign a complaint looking to challenge President Obama’s name on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballot.
The president has already released his Hawaiian long-form birth certificate, but “birthers” say it’s a fake.
Pettengill too is doubtful. But when asked what the president would have to do to prove to her he is eligible for the office he already holds, Pettingill responded, “Well I’m pretty much done with this conversation.” When pressed she said, “Quite a few things, let’s leave it at that,” and then ending the interview.
Her skepticism, however, isn’t shared by all of her colleagues, even others who sit ideologically opposed to the president.
“This is not in any way a Republican movement,” Rep. Gene Chandler said (R-Bartlett). “It’s been talked about for four years now. As far as I’m concerned it’s settled.”
But it’s not for Pettengill. She wants the state to do the legwork to verify that every candidate who runs for president in New Hampshire meets the U.S. Constitutional eligibility requirements.
Those requirements, listed in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, are that the president must be 35 years old, a natural born U.S. citizen and have been a resident of the country for the last 14 years. State officials currently require candidates to sign an affidavit attesting they meet the requirements, but they don’t go around the country pulling records.
“It’s a very important issue,” Pettengill said. “That’s not a Republican agenda, that’s not a Democratic agenda, that’s an American agenda.”
What’s more, she said, it’s a standard that needs to be universally applied. Her concerns do not just apply to one candidate, she said.
But not everyone believes that.
“The issue is over President Obama,” said Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Conway). “It’s not a general issue.”
Umberger said she disagrees with President Obama’s policies, but she respects the office of the president. “He was elected by the people. Period. End of sentence,” she said. “It’s not on my priority list.”
“The legitimate concerns of some are not the legitimate concerns of all,” Pettengill said.
But the “legitimate concerns” didn’t go very far in Concord. The complaint Pettengill and the other legislators signed was rejected by the committee that oversees on ballot issues, prompting an outcry from several of the legislators. A video of the moment was captured and posted to YouTube. In it one lawmaker calls the committee “treasonous.”
That’s a sentiment Pettengill shares.
The complaint was 85 pages, she said, raising serious concerns. “Nobody even looked at it. It deserved some credible scrutiny.”
“What we have here in New Hampshire is a real problem,” she said, because people can get on the ballot without ever verifying they are eligible. “This is something that is very critical for our safety and security.”
But officials in the Secretary of State’s office, which conducts the balloting process, don’t agree there is a problem.
If there was a credible challenge, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon said, they would take it seriously, but this complaint was asking New Hampshire to go to Hawaii and Connecticut to investigate alleged irregularities. “Those are issues that really need to be investigated in those jurisdictions.”
If a court in one of those states said there were serious questions, he said, “I’m sure the ballot commission would take that seriously.”