California Supreme Court will consider challenge to state law requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns
The California Supreme Court voted unanimously August 21 to consider whether a new law that requires presidential candidates to file their tax returns with the state conflicts with a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1972.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed Senate Bill 27 (SB 27) into law July 30 requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file copies of their last five federal income tax returns in order to appear on the primary election ballot. The bill passed the state Senate by a 29-10 vote and the state House, 57-17, with all votes in favor by Democrats and all votes against by Republicans.
Several individuals and organizations—including President Donald Trump (R)—filed lawsuits in federal district court to declare SB 27 in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The California Republican Party also filed a lawsuit in state court against the law August 6 and asked the state’s highest court to decide whether SB 27 violates the California Constitution, including Proposition 4 (1972).
Proposition 4 stated that presidential primary candidates on the ballot are “those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of the President of the United States, and those whose names placed on the ballot by petition.” Voters approved the measure, 61.4% to 38.6%, on June 6, 1972.
Written arguments in the case were due to be filed yesterday. The court has asked all parties to address the legislative history of Proposition 4 and related laws and the guidelines that the secretary of state has employed to assess who is a recognized candidate.
A legal filing challenging SB 27 said that the law prohibited the Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) —who is named as a defendant in the suit—”from exercising his constitutionally delegated duty to place the name of all nationally recognized presidential candidates” on the primary ballot.
State lawyers representing Padilla said in a filing that Proposition 4 “imposes no mandatory duty on the secretary of state, but rather provides that the secretary will ‘find’ candidates that are ‘recognized … throughout the nation’ and include them on California primary ballots.”