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I watched with amazement as the controversy of President Barak Obama’s birthplace and citizenship became a favorite political football among some conservatives — an issue that (still) has as much chance of being resolved as the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Now, I was really tickled by this because I know firsthand that Virginia’s State Board of Elections requires all candidates for U.S. Senate to submit a “Certificate of Candidate Qualification” in which the candidate submits a notarized form which affirms U.S. citizenship for nine years, an age of 30 years and residency in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

At the bottom of this form is printed the following: “Knowingly making any untrue statement or entry in this document is a felony under Virginia law. The punishment is a maximum fine of $2,500 and/or confinement for up to ten years. Also, you lose your right to vote.”

My source of amusement over the Obama hullabaloo was that I, at the time, assumed the Federal Election Commission should have easily resolved the issue at the beginning. As it turns out, the FEC has no statutory authority to require any type of candidate qualification; their scope of enforcement is confined to campaign finance laws under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and its amendments.

As it stands now, the FEC thinks the states fill this role in their primaries, and states focus on managing their primaries without really addressing candidate qualifications; meanwhile we’re getting nowhere on keeping our presidential candidates openly accountable to the people.Virginia does not have a qualification statement for presidential candidates — only for candidates who are Virginians running for public office that would represent Virginia.

I highly suspect other states are roughly under similar legal parameters. It simply makes no sense for any state to certify qualifications for the office of president.

The U.S. Constitution of the requires a president to be a “natural born citizen.” The enforcement of this simple requirement is a federal issue. Lawyers can debate until the cows come home on what natural born means, but Congress would do well to make a practical amendment to FECA that enables the FEC to require simple and precise qualifications from every presidential candidate.

If this provision was in place, we would be doing this right now for all Republican candidates and Obama in his re-election campaign.

I call for Congress to take this long overdue step, and give it the seriousness it deserves.

Robert Berry, Springfield