President Obama delivers State of the Union address. (Credit: Getty Images)
By Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
President Obama's birth certificate continues to make headlines in ways he doesn't want.
Arizona's top elections official is trying to explain why he's seeking to verify the document before placing Obama on the November ballot.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican exploring a 2014 race for governor, issued a statement insisting he is not a "birther," the word he and others use for those who believe Obama was not born in the United States and is not legitimately president.
Bennett told a radio interviewer yesterday it was "possible" he would keep Obama off the ballot if the issue isn't resolved.
"First, I have been on the record since 2009 that I believe the president was born in Hawaii. I am not a birther," Bennett said in his statement.
"At the request of a constituent, I asked the state of Hawaii for a verification in lieu of certified copy," he said. "We're merely asking them to officially confirm they have the president's birth certificate in their possession and are awaiting their response."
Arizona has been pegged by some political observers to be a possible battleground state in November. Tensions between state officials such as Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and the Obama administration over issues such as immigration have spilled over into the federal courts, putting Arizona under an even hotter spotlight in an election year.
Last April, Obama released the long form of his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii as a way to defuse what he called the "silliness" surrounding the document.
But questions persist. Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio spent six months investigating Obama's birth certificate and alleged it was forged.
In part because of Arpaio's investigation, Bennett said on KFYI radio that he received over 1,200 e-mails asking him to look into Obama's birth certificate. Bennett told radio host Mike Broomhead on Thursday that he believes "the president was born in Hawaii -- at least I hope he was" and stated he was "not playing to the birthers."
He went on to explain that he had been trying for eight weeks to verify Obama's certificate and was surprised by how challenging it has been to get a response from Hawaii officials.
Obama's Justice Department sued the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's office earlier this month, claiming that Arpaio has led the practice of racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio called the lawsuit a political stunt to try to win Latino votes in the upcoming election.