Policy updates: the 2020 presidential election edition

2020 presidential election: policy update

Many of the laws governing presidential elections, including primary/caucus rules and ballot access procedures, are established and enforced at the state level. With the 2020 presidential campaign season well underway, let’s take a look at some noteworthy developments dealing with election law for presidential candidates.

California enacts law requiring presidential, gubernatorial candidates to disclose tax returns

On July 30, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 27 into law, requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file copies of their last five federal income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for the primary election ballot. The law took immediate effect.

  • In a statement, Newsom said, “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interests. The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.”
  • Also on July 30, Republican presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) in U.S. District Court, alleging that SB 27 violated Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution, as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments. On August 1, Judicial Watch, on behalf of four California voters, filed a separate federal suit challenging the law. On August 6, President Donald Trump and his campaign committee filed another separate suit challenging the law, as did the Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party.
  • Legal professionals have differed in their initial assessments of SB 27. Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “This new law raises some very interesting and novel constitutional issues. Because it is novel, it is hard to know how the courts would go, but there is plenty of reason to think courts will be hostile to California’s requirements.” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said, “Although most cases dealing with ballot access have involved state and local elections, the constitutional principles are the same: State governments may set conditions for being listed on the ballot so long as they serve important interests and do not discriminate based on wealth or ideology.” Gene Schaerr, a constitutional lawyer who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “I see it as a serious problem on both constitutional grounds and especially on policy. You can imagine a host of other disclosures that states might want to adopt. If California could do this, some people would undoubtedly want to know whether candidates have ever been treated for a mental illness or denied insurance.”

2020 presidential primary, caucus, and nominating convention schedule

The 2020 presidential primary, caucus, and nominating convention schedule is nearly complete. Listed below are noteworthy instances of states that changed either the dates or formats of their nominating contest in 2020.

  • California: Primary moved to March 3, 2020. In 2016, it was on June 7.
  • Colorado: Primary established to be conducted March 3, 2020. Colorado’s Democratic and Republican parties held caucuses in 2016.
  • Maine: Primary established to be conducted March 3, 2020. Maine’s Democratic and Republican parties held caucuses in 2016.
  • Minnesota: Primary established to be conducted March 3, 2020. Minnesota’s Democratic and Republican parties held caucuses in 2016.
  • Utah: Primary established to be conducted March 3, 2020. Utah’s Democratic and Republican parties held caucuses in 2016.

For a complete list of important dates in the 2020 presidential election cycle, see this article.

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills

The maps below show which states are considering redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems legislation. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.

Redistricting legislation as of August 7, 2019

Map Redistricting legislation at the state and city levels in the United States

Electoral systems legislation as of August 7, 2019

Electoral systems August 2019 map

Primary systems legislation as of August 7, 2019

Primary systems August 2019 map



About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jerrick.adams@ballotpedia.org

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