In the wake of the 2008 U. S. Presidential Election some bemoaned the lack of eligibility checking for presidential candidates. Some asserted that there is a “big gaping hole” in the process that led to confusion, turmoil, and, in their view, an ineligible President taking office. Some said that the process is broken and needs to be fixed.
Several state legislatures considered legislation that would establish procedures to vet presidential candidates at the state level, including requirements that candidates present documents and give oaths. None became law. Challenges in at least 18 states were filed alleging that various presidential candidates are ineligible to appear on the ballot, or that state officials have failed in their duty to perform a rigorous eligibility screening for all presidential candidates. Over one hundred failed lawsuits, petitions and challenges later, things are essentially where they began.
I believe that the system is not broken; rather, the confusion and turmoil is solely due to the failure of those suffering the confusion and experiencing the turmoil to read and understand the U. S. Constitution. Our Constitution sets up a two-stage process to insure that only an eligible individual assumes the office of President of the United States.
The first responsibility in selecting an eligible President lies with the citizens of the United States. Citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution the right to speak and to assemble peacefully. At no time in our history has it been easier for an individual to reach large numbers of other voters; the Internet indeed makes speech free. The Constitution also grants freedom of the Press, who have the resources to research, to investigate, interview, and get priority access to Freedom of Information Act material. Candidates can, and do investigate each other in microscopic detail and have ample resources to publish what they find. At any point, should it be suspected that a candidate for President is not eligible under the Constitution to serve in the Office, the opportunity is there to lay that concern before the voters in the election process.