“The Secretary of State spent the weekend talking to one reporter after another, telling them that candidates who did not qualify had been notified. They did not bother to contact my campaign until late Sunday afternoon, via email to my campaign manager,” Elder tweeted.
Elder’s campaign learned of the issue over the weekend from news media outlets before receiving a letter from the secretary of state’s office informing him that he was left off due to “incomplete redacted and/or unredacted income tax returns were filed.”
Candidates were required to submit five years’ worth of tax returns, with one set that has personal information redacted and one set without redactions. Elder complied, submitting more than 300 pages, as per a press release from his campaign.
Elder claimed his accountant, with 40 years of experience, pored over the documents to ensure they were complete before submission.
“Frankly, this action by the Secretary of State is not simply unfair and absurd but a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent,” Elder stated. “I am waging a legal battle to run as the candidate for Californians who are tired of partisanship and entrenched interests of Sacramento. I fully expect to be on the final certified list of candidates.”
The final list will be issued Wednesday, one day before ballots are scheduled to be delivered to a printer.
The law requiring tax returns in presidential and gubernatorial elections was signed into law only two years ago by Newsom in response to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. At the time, Trump failed to disclose his tax returns, and the law would have kept him off the 2020 ballot. A similar bill was vetoed in 2017 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
The California Supreme Court later ruled the law violated the Constitution for presidential elections but was silent on governors. Regardless, the law is being erroneously applied to this recall election because it states tax returns are required for a “primary ballot,” Elder’s lawsuit said.
“Because of the nature of the recall election, Gov. Newsom is not required to disclose his tax returns,” the lawsuit reads. “Additionally, it appears that two other candidates did not provide their full 5-year tax returns because they filed extensions with the IRS.”
On Monday, another person was added to the candidate list who was not there over the weekend.
"Whatever small defect was in my filings, the secretary of state could have fixed this if she wanted to," Elder told the Washington Examiner. "She added another person on the list, why can't she add me?"
A second lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Betty Tom Chu, an Elder supporter and former mayor of the Los Angeles suburb Monterey Park. She claims the secretary of state is preventing her constitutional right to vote for the candidate of her choice. Both lawsuits were filed in Sacramento and requested expedited hearings.