The political polarization of America continues to confound. The Senate of Washington state has passed a bill that will prevent President Trump from appearing on ballots in the state in the 2020 election.
The mechanism in the bill that seeks to accomplish that goal is a requirement for presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 28-21.
The state’s attorney general and solicitor opined in a letter to lawmakers that the proposal was likely constitutional. Critics indicate that if the bill becomes law, it will be challenged in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot add to the qualifications of senators and congressional representatives as outlined in the Constitution. On the other hand, the Constitution also gives states the power to set rules for how presidential elections are held within their borders.
“Although releasing tax returns has been the norm for about the last 40 years in presidential elections, unfortunately, we’ve seen that norm broken,” said bill sponsor Democrat Patty Kuderer, a Senator from Bellevue, during debate Tuesday. Kuderer indicated she was referring to Trump.
Republican Senator Hans Zeiger argued that the state is in questionable territory, trying to impose rules on a federal election.
Some lawmakers questioned the issue of forcing transparency upon candidates. There were warnings that legislators would probably see the same requirements imposed on themselves in future elections.
“I just don’t understand why in the world you would promote something that would connote that there’s something suspicious about the activities of our elected officials,” said Republican Maureen Walsh, Senator from Walla Walla.
Similar bills have cropped up in 25 states recently, resulting in hotly contested disagreements over whether states have the Constitutional authority to make such rules.
In 2017, New Jersey lawmakers passed a similar bill which Governor Chris Christie vetoed. He called it a political stunt.
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