LOS ANGELES — President Donald Trump does not have to disclose his tax returns to appear as a candidate on California’s primary ballot next spring, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.
The law, the first of its kind in the nation and aimed squarely at Trump, violates a specification of the state constitution calling for an “inclusive open presidential primary ballot,” the court said.
“Ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a ‘recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States’ to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the 7-0 decision.
Trump has broken with tradition among presidential candidates by refusing to disclose his financial information.
A U.S. judge had temporarily blocked the state law in response to a different lawsuit, and the high court ruled quickly because the deadline to file tax returns to get on the primary ballot is next week.
The state Republican Party and chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson challenged the bill signed into law this year by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom because it singled out Trump.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for every California voter,” Patterson said in a statement. “We are pleased that the courts saw through the Democrats’ petty partisan maneuvers and saw this law for what it is — an unconstitutional attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout.”
The state defended the law, saying release of tax returns gave voters important information to weigh candidates’ financial status.
Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat who authored the bill, said it was a simple requirement for candidates to meet and provided accountability.
“Today’s decision flies in the face of what the American people have come to expect from presidential candidates — transparency,” McGuire said. “Every presidential candidate for the past 40 years has released their tax returns, with the exception of the current occupant of the White House. If he has nothing to hide, why wouldn’t he release them?”
The law would have required candidates for president or governor to file copies of personal income tax returns dating back five years. Refusal to do so would keep them off the state’s primary ballot, but not apply to general elections.