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COA: Obama, McCain eligible to be president

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More than a year after the 2008 presidential election, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama were eligible to run for the office.

Steve Ankeny and Bill Kruse pro se filed the suit against Gov. Mitch Daniels, Ankeny and Kruse v. Governor of the State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0904-CV-353, claiming the governor had a duty to determine a person's eligibility to become president because he issues a "certificate of ascertainment," which lists the electors chosen, other candidates, number of votes received, and other information; and because he appoints members of Indiana's electoral college. They argued the governor didn't comply with this duty because Obama and McCain weren't eligible under the federal Constitution's clause that says no U.S. senator currently holding that office shall be appointed elector for any state. They also believed neither candidate was eligible for the office because they weren't "born naturally within any Article IV State of the 50 United States of America."

The Marion Superior Court granted the governor's motion to dismiss the suit under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6).

"Initially, we note that the Plaintiffs do not cite to any authority recognizing that the Governor has a duty to determine the eligibility of a party's nominee for the presidency," wrote Judge Elaine Brown. "The Plaintiffs do not cite to authority, nor do they develop a cogent legal argument stating that a certificate of ascertainment has any relation to the eligibility of the candidates."

The plaintiffs argued because Obama and McCain were U.S. senators on Election Day, they were constitutionally ineligible to be appointed as presidential elector.

"The fact that the names 'Barack Obama' and 'John McCain' are the ones that appeared on the ballot does not change the fact that they were in fact candidates for the presidency, not any of Indiana's electors," she wrote.

The appellate court then used centuries-old caselaw to rule Obama is a "natural born citizen" as required to qualify to be president. Ankeny and Kruse complained that the senators weren't natural born citizens and the governor shouldn't have been able to issue any certificate of ascertainment. The Court of Appeals focused on Obama because the plaintiffs didn't develop a cogent legal argument pertaining to McCain. Ankeny and Kruse claimed because Obama's father was a citizen of the United Kingdom, he is constitutionally ineligible to be president.

Based on the language of Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 and the guidance provided in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 18 S. Ct. 456 (1898), the Court of Appeals ruled that people born within the borders of the U.S. are "natural born citizens" for Article II, Section 1 purposes, regardless of the citizenship of their parents.

Judge Brown noted in a footnote that nothing in the opinion today should be understood to hold that being born within the 50 states is the only way one can receive natural born citizen status. She also noted that the 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, also was born of parents with different citizenships; his mother was a U.S. citizen and his father was Irish.

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