A 1040 de­mand for can­di­dates

Group wants tax re­turns as re­quire­ment to get on pres­i­den­tial bal­lot

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Brian Ea­son

Af­ter a sim­i­lar ef­fort at the state leg­is­la­ture went down in pre­dictably par­ti­san flames, a cit­i­zens’ group wants to ask vot­ers to re­quire pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to dis­close their in­come tax re­turns — or be barred from the Colorado bal­lot.

The pro­posed bal­lot ini­tia­tive comes in re­sponse to one of the 2016 elec­tion’s more per­sis­tent con­tro­ver­sies: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­fusal to re­lease his tax re­turns, which broke with long­stand­ing po­lit­i­cal norms.

The ef­fort is be­ing led by Strength­en­ing Democ­racy Colorado, a gov­ern­ment re­form group founded by at­tor­neys Scott Cadiz and Ja­son Legg.

“We think there are a va­ri­ety of struc­tural fac­tors that are mak­ing our democ­racy suf­fer,” Legg said. “It’s a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy. Peo­ple think gov­ern­ment’s cor­rupt and doesn’t rep­re­sent them, so they don’t vote, and it gets worse.”

Polling has con­sis­tently shown that vot­ers in both par­ties want to see tax re­turns from pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, with one sur­vey from Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling find­ing in March that as many as 61 per­cent of vot­ers would sup­port a law re­quir­ing the dis­clo­sure of five years’ worth of re­turns.

But the cit­i­zen-led ef­fort in Colorado is no sure thing. It would have to clear a num­ber of hur­dles to make it on the bal­lot in 2018 — in­clud­ing a mas­sive sig­na­ture-gath­er­ing ef­fort that the group hopes to achieve en­tirely with vol­un­teers.

Last year, the group failed in its ef­fort to bring an ini­tia­tive to the bal­lot that would have re­quired au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion when an el­i­gi­ble voter ap­plies for a driver’s li­cense. To qual­ify for the statewide bal­lot, statu­tory ini­tia­tives like this one need 98,492 qual­i­fied sig­na­tures from vot­ers.

And even if the ini­tia­tive makes it to the bal­lot and is ap­proved by vot­ers, it’s no sure thing to take ef­fect.

At least 26 other states in­tro­duced sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion this year, af­ter Trump be­came the first ma­jor­party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in more than 40 years not to re­lease his re­turns.

But le­gal ex­perts dif­fer on whether it would be con­sti­tu­tional for states to im­pose such re­stric­tions on a can­di­date for fed­eral of­fice.

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