California says tax return law doesn't bar ballot access

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's attorney general is urging a federal judge not to halt a state law requiring presidential candidates release their tax returns, arguing it doesn't bar anyone from accessing the ballot or deprive voters of their rights.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, made his arguments in a Thursday filing in response to a Trump campaign request for an injunction, which would stall the law from taking effect as lawsuits proceeds.

The new California law says candidates for president and governor must release five years-worth of tax returns to appear on the state's primary ballot. Republican President Donald Trump has bucked precedent by declining to release his returns, which he says are under audit.

A federal judge is set to hear the request for an injunction on Sept. 19 in Sacramento.

The Trump campaign has sued to block the law alongside the state and national Republican parties and several individuals. Roque De La Fuente, a serial candidate for federal office, has also sued.

They argue the law violates the U.S. Constitution by adding an additional requirement to run for president and by denying voters their right to associate with their chosen candidates.

But California says the law does nothing to bar people from accessing the ballot, because every candidate is capable of releasing their tax returns. Those who do not, Becerra argued, are simply choosing not to.

"If these candidates are precluded from appearing on the primary ballot, it would be because of their deliberate refusal to comply with the same financial disclosure requirement that applies to all candidates," Becerra wrote.

Blocking the law would be against the public's interest, Becerra further argued. Tax returns reveal a person's sources of income, charitable giving and business ties, all information California Democrats say is vital to determining a candidate's fitness for office.

He said the law imposes a "slight burden" on plaintiffs' rights, but not a severe one because it is ultimately up to candidates to choose whether to forego the ballot.

The request for an injunction will go before U.S. District Judge Morrison England, Jr., who was appointed to the bench by former Republican President George W. Bush.

The deadline for candidates running in the March 2020 primary to submit their tax returns to the state is in November.

If Trump chooses not to compete in the California primary, he almost certainly would still win the Republican nomination. The California Republican Party, which is holding its fall convention this weekend, may take up a rules change that would ensure they can still send delegates to the national convention next summer if Trump is kept off the ballot.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale is a featured speaker at the weekend event.

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