President Donald Trump’s name would not appear on the 2020 primary ballot if a bill in the California legislature passes this session.
The Senate bill would require a presidential candidate to disclose his or her tax returns in order to appear on the ticket. Pres. Trump has refused to make his tax returns public.
San Luis Obispo County Republican Party Chairman Randall Jordan called the initiative unconstitutional.
“It’s a witch hunt. Basically, look for anything they can to trip up this president,” Jordan said.
But the constitutionality of the bill might depend on how it’s interpreted, according to Cal Poly Political Science Professor Michael Latner.
“Legal scholars are somewhat divided over the legal constitutionality,” Latner said. “The real question here is whether it’s a qualification for office or whether it’s considered eligibility to be on the ballot.”
Latner said states are typically free to set ballot guidelines but not qualifications for executive office.
The bill passed Thursday in the state Senate with a 27-to-11 vote, but Californians are divided.
“I think all of us have a need to know,” said Steve Harmon, Arroyo Grande resident. “If you’re holding it back, it makes you wonder why. Are you hiding something?”
But Clovis resident Linda Linder calls the bill “liberal propaganda.”
“I’m against it,” Linder said. “I think someone’s tax returns are their personal business and I don’t care if (Trump) releases his tax returns or not.”
The bill previously died on the desk of former Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed the bill citing concerns about setting a dangerous precedent.
Even if Gov. Gavin Newsom approves the legislation this time around, voters could still write in Trump’s name.
“If someone else was running against President Trump, Bill Weld or other people who have declared candidacy within the Republican primary, then it becomes a very interesting question because it’s a write-in battle of sorts,” Latner said.
Jordan said his party is prepared to fight the measure locally.
“We’re 100 percent behind our president so we will do everything we can to get his name on the ballot however we have to do it,” Jordan said.