EDITORIAL: States seek to keep Donald Trump off the 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns

Trump hysteria takes many forms. The latest manifestation can be seen in a handful of left-leaning states across the country that seek to prevent the president from running for re-election in 2020 unless he releases his tax returns.

This silly campaign is misguided and unconstitutional.

As the Associated Press reported this week, state lawmakers in Maryland, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, California and elsewhere say they want to formalize a long-standing practice among major-party candidates running for president: the public release of tax returns detailing sources of income, business interests and charitable giving.

They seek to prevent presidential candidates from appearing on the ballot in their states if they fail to comply.

The bill introduced in Maryland would call for the release of five years of tax returns. Last May, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced a similar bill at the federal level but the legislation didn’t advance.

Not surprisingly, the states pursuing this legislation were all won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. And while lawmakers pushing the legislation have offered platitudes about their intentions, it’s obvious their focus is on Mr. Trump. “We all expected anyone who is going to be in front of the public and lead our nation would be transparent,” said one Maryland lawmaker who supports the move. “He chose not to be, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again in the future from any candidate.”

The AP noted that Hawaii last week became the first state to send legislation requiring tax return disclosure to a full floor vote. New Jersey’s Democrat-led Assembly approved similar legislation, which is now headed to Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to use his veto pen.

New Jersey Assemblyman Jay Webber, a Republican, called the bill a “doozy” that is “both transparently political and blatantly unconstitutional.”

No kidding. If partisans seek to make an issue over a candidate’s refusal to release his or her tax returns, fine. The voters can decide how much weight to give the matter. But a mandate is unnecessary overkill.

Besides, states can’t set qualifications for the nation’s highest office. The Constitution requires only that a president be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old and 14 years a resident. Individual states can no more impose a tax return requirement for ballot access than they could demand that all candidates stand at least 6 feet 7 inches.

Democrats who hope to take the White House back from Donald Trump in 2020 should focus less on such pathetic grandstanding and more on cultivating candidates who can appeal to enough Americans to win a national election.

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