By JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's secretary of state said Wednesday that Hawaii's official verification of President Barack Obama's birth records meets necessary requirements, meaning the president's name will appear on Arizona's ballot in the fall.
The inquiry launched recently by Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett gave official weight to a long-simmering political controversy generated by those who say that Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore is ineligible to hold the nation's highest office.
The Obama administration attempted a year ago to dismiss the conflict by releasing his long-form birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii.
But skeptics maintained their stance and eventually Bennett announced he would seek further verification at the request of numerous voters who contacted his office, even saying he was prepared to leave Obama's name off the state's ballot in November.
Bennett, a Republican, said in a written statement that Hawaii officials "have complied with the request, and I consider the matter closed."
Bennett's office says Obama's name will appear on Arizona's November ballot as long as he wins his party's nomination and all paperwork is properly completed.
Obama campaign spokesman Mahen Gunaratna noted that Bennett also is Arizona campaign co-chair for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. Gunaratna said Bennett's inquiry will have no bearing on the election, "But it does present an opportunity for Mitt Romney to finally rise to the occasion and denounce the extreme voices in his party."
The Romney campaign responded saying the candidate has made his stance on the issue clear.
"I think the citizenship test has been passed," Romney said to CNBC in April, a statement relayed to The Associated Press by his campaign on Wednesday. "I believe the president was born in the United States. And there are real reasons to get this guy out of office."
Hawaii State Registrar Alvin Onaka sent the document Tuesday confirming the information on Obama's birth certificate, such as the Honolulu hospital where he was born and the names and ages of his parents.
Hawaii officials have repeatedly verified Obama's citizenship as skeptics have maintained that the president was born in Kenya, his father's home country.
State and federal courts also have rejected lawsuits over the issue.
The verification process was the subject of three months of back and forth, with Hawaii officials initially saying Bennett had to show why he needed the information as part of ordinary business.
Other Arizona officials over the last year have raised questions about Obama's birth certificate.
Last year, the state Legislature passed a bill that would have required presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before their names could appear on the state's ballot.
The proposal was vetoed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who called the measure "a bridge too far."
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, had a volunteer posse launch an investigation into the issue, saying in March there was reason to believe Obama's long-form birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery.
Arpaio, known for his hardline stance on illegal immigration, said Wednesday the information given to Bennett's office doesn't dispel his suspicions. He vowed to continue his posse's investigation until Hawaii officials provide microfilm of the original birth certificate or the original document itself.
Earlier this spring, Bennett's office made a change that requires candidates to complete a new form asking eligibility questions, including whether they are natural-born U.S. citizens.
In the past, political parties drafted their own certification documents that Arizona officials say didn't consistently address the issue of qualifications.
Democrat state Rep. Chad Campbell, Arizona's House minority leader, called on Bennett to step down as co-chair of the Romney campaign, saying if he doesn't, then he should resign as secretary of state.
Bennett declined through a spokesman to comment on Campbell's appeal.
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