California's Voter Suppression

Governor signs law barring Trump's name from the primary ballot without releasing his tax returns.

Thomas Gallatin · Aug. 1, 2019

California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Tuesday that would bar President Donald Trump’s name from appearing on the state’s 2020 primary ballot unless he discloses his tax returns. Newsom “justified” the bill, arguing, “These are extraordinary times 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.” So, the party that loudly opposes any form of voter ID laws out of faux concern for potential voter suppression has now put forth a draconian piece of voter-suppression legislation. Even former Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown wouldn’t dare go this far, as he vetoed a similar measure over concerns that it was unconstitutional.

However, in this era of Trump Derangement Syndrome, Democrat concern for constitutionality is no longer even feigned. But they would have done well to listen to Brown, who argued, “It sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power? A qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to our democratic system. For that reason, I hesitate to start down a road that well might lead to an ever escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”

Brown’s argument is a cogent one. What stops Texas, Georgia, or Florida from coming up with their own laws clearly aimed at suppressing the ability of a Democrat presidential candidate from getting his or her name on the ballot?

Obviously, this move is meant to once again highlight the long-running Democrat complaint that Trump has not released his long-form tax returns. That’s an action most modern presidential candidates have willingly taken, but one the Constitution does not require.

Clearly, however, this law is ripe for legal action. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh stated, “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own. The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.” It would seem the one-party oligarchs in California disagree.

Correction: California’s law is specifically directed to the primary ballot, not the general-election one, which renders discussion of the Electoral College largely moot. However, as the LA Times notes, “Should California’s law remain on the books, it would force Trump to choose: Reverse course on his steadfast refusal to provide tax information or risk that California’s 172 delegates to next year’s Republican National Convention could go to a long-shot GOP challenger. The new California law does not, however, apply the same rules to a write-in candidate — a possible backup plan for Trump, though one that might not do enough to help Republican candidates for legislative and congressional offices who are depending on the party standard-bearer to help drive voters to the polls.”

Another 10 states are considering similar legislation.

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