Trump Might Not Appear on California Ballot Unless He Releases Tax Returns

By: - July 31, 2019 12:00 am

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters this month. He signed legislation this week making the Golden State the first to mandate tax returns for candidates to appear on its ballot. Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press

President Donald Trump might not appear on the Republican presidential primary ballot in California next year.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed legislation that requires all presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release five years of income tax returns to the California secretary of state as a condition for appearing on California’s primary ballot starting in 2020.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns, saying they are under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

This new California law, however, likely will set up court battles in the coming months. The Trump campaign has argued that the U.S. Constitution prevents states from adding their own requirements for candidates to appear on ballots. The Republican National Committee called the new law “gimmicky.”

As Stateline has reported, California is the first state to possibly ban a president running for reelection from its presidential primary ballot. The bill passed the state legislature on a strictly party-line vote earlier this month.

After signing the legislation, Newsom, who has often been at the fore of high-profile battles with the Trump administration, said the law will shed light on candidates’ conflicts of interest.

“These are extraordinary times,” he said in a statement, “and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

California was among 18 states that considered tax return disclosure requirements this year for presidential candidates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, after 27 states considered such legislation last year.

Four states — Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington — will continue debating similar measures next legislative session.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.