California’s highest court upheld the president’s right to keep details of his personal income tax private and stand for re-election on Nov. 21.
The state’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled failure to disclose tax returns was insufficient legal grounds to prevent Donald Trump from appearing as a candidate on California’s primary ballot next spring.
The judgment came after the California government tried to enforce state law that requires candidates for president or governor to submit copies of their personal income tax returns for the past five years. Failure to comply would result in removal from the state’s primary ballot. The law does not apply to general elections.
The court rejected the notion such a law could be used to prevent the president from standing for re-election because doing so would constitute a direct violation of the state constitution, which guarantees an “inclusive open presidential primary ballot.”
“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 said in the 7–0 decision according to The Associated Press.
Trump maintains the continuing Internal Revenue Service audit is preventing him from releasing his tax returns, a tradition previous presidential candidates have observed.
The judge had already temporarily blocked the law, following a separate legal action. The court quickly reached its decision because the deadline to file tax returns and be added to the primary ballot is the following week.
The state Republican Party welcomed the court’s decision to uphold Trump’s right to privacy.
“[This] ruling is a victory for every California voter,” Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press. “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.”
However, the California government still refused to accept the court decision and said the law, which Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed, would have provided voters with important information about the president’s financial details.
“[This] decision flies in the face of what the American people have come to expect from presidential candidates—transparency,” Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat who authored the bill, said according to The Associated Press. “Every presidential candidate for the past 40 years has released their tax returns, with the exception of the current occupant of the White House.”