Obama birth issue raised by 3 Arizona electors

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Several Republican Party officials serving as Electoral College members for Arizona questioned President Barack Obama's eligibility to be president, voicing concerns that later drew disavowals from Gov. Jan Brewer and another Republican elected official.

All 11 Arizona electors cast their votes for defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who won the state's popular vote. The slots - awarded to states according to the size of their congressional delegations - generally go to party loyalists and activists.

State Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey and two current or former GOP county chairmen spoke up during the ceremony to voice doubts about Obama's eligibility as a native-born U.S. citizen.

"I am signing this document with concern about the legitimacy of the birth certificate that I have seen presented by Barack Hussein Obama," Morrissey said.

College member Don Ascoli, who recently finished serving as Republican Party chairman in Gila County, said he didn't think Obama was "properly vetted as a legitimate candidate for president."

Hawaii officials have certified that Obama was born in that state.

The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be "natural-born" U.S. citizens, be at least 35 years old, and be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who presided over the Electoral College ceremony, later said he did not share the views of the three college members, but he said the college members were exercising their First Amendment rights.

Brewer, who observed the ceremony, later also said she disagreed with the three college members' opinions.

"The bottom line is everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I happen to disagree," she said.

Brewer in 2011 vetoed a bill passed by the Arizona Legislature to require Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state's ballot.

The bill would have made Arizona the first state to pass such a requirement.

Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona's secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office.

The Obama administration attempted to squelch the conflict by releasing his long-form birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii.

However, the long-simmering controversy flared anew in Arizona earlier this year when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in March that an investigation by a volunteer posse had shown reason to believe Obama's long-form birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery.

Bennett, the state's top elections official and a Romney supporter, then responded to complaints by tea party activists by asking Hawaii to verify Obama's birth records. When they did so, Bennett said he considered the matter closed.

"He was elected and the votes were cast. He's the president and will be the president," Bennett said after Monday's Electoral College ceremony.

Nationally, Obama was on course to get 332 electoral college votes to Romney's 206, barring extremely rare defectors known as "faithless electors."

Electors across the nation also were affirming Joe Biden for another term as vice president.

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