Yesterday, I noted that the birth certificate issue had not gotten much coverage since MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews brought it up. He suggested President Barack Obama could easily quash the issue by sending him a copy of his birth certificate.
But McHenry County resident Sharon Meroni has been persistent in her quest to make it possible for citizens like herself to make certain that candidates are actually citizens.
We left off yesterday with the Illinois State Board of Elections have tossed out her objections and Mernoni having filed for administrative review in the circuit court in Springfield.
In the court case, the Illinois Attorney General argued, among other things, that Maroni was trying to amend election law and that the courtroom was not where that is done, not to mention that she did not point to any specific deficiency in the candidates’ petitions.
Meroni counselor Steve Boulton points out in his arguments that the state and national constitutions are quite clear as to the requirements to hold office. From that assumption, he concludes that Meroni had justification for her objections.
He argues that by dismissing objections for which no request was made, the Board exceeded its statutory authority.
He argues that Meroni was not provided due process because she had no way to provide evidence whether or not the candidates were citizens because she had not access to their birth certificates.
Boulton does suggest that the Board could have allowed the issuance subpoenas for birth certificates of candidates so challenged.
He further points out that constitutional questions cannot be answered by administrative agencies like the Illinois State Board of Elections. It takes a judge to make such a ruling.
“Strict scrutiny” is required for protecting “the fundamental right to vote,” Meroni’s lawyer argues. He points out that right is “a cornerstone of American democracy.”
Boulton argues that the impossibility of Meroni to determine whether or not candidates are citizens put an unconstitutional burden on her, especially because the electoral board “affirmatively refuses to make inquiry.”
Commenting on the adequacy of election officials relying only on the nominating petition to determine a person’s eligibility to hold public office, the brief says,
“Simply put, if a candidate has lied under oath in stating that he is a registered voter or otherwise engaged in falsehood in representing his citizenship, a basic requirement of candidacy under the Illinois Constitution, the nomination papers cannot in any way be considered ‘valid.’”
He calls the five day period allowed for objections a “substantial and unreasonable” barrier since it takes a court order to obtain a birth certificate if one is not related to the person. In addition, immigration and naturalization records are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act. And the Illinois FOIA bars unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
So, a person wanting to challenge a candidate’s citizenship is effectively blocked from doing so in Illinois.
Meroni’s attorney asks the appellate court to give her a second shot before the State Board of Elections, declare the rule used to dismiss her objections invalid or declare the “legislative scheme employed by the State of Illinois has deprived her of her constitutional rights.”
You can read the whole brief here.