State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Constitutionality

Tax Returns as a Ballot Requirement in Massachusetts and Beyond

By: Erik Gerstner

While the 2016 Presidential election was especially notable for a number of reasons, one of the major recurring issues throughout the campaign was the outright refusal of Donald Trump to follow tradition and release previous tax returns to the public, despite calls from observers, both partisan and neutral, that he do so. In the wake of the election, at least 26 states began considering laws requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in various ways. Among these is Massachusetts, whose legislature is currently considering a bill requiring any candidates wanting their name to appear on a Massachusetts primary ballot to provide the state secretary with a certified copy of their three most recent federal income tax returns.

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Massachusetts Rules against Ban on Lying in Campaigns

By: David Schlosser

Over the summer of 2015, a Massachusetts law banning lying in campaign ads was struck down by that state’s highest court. This decision mirrors that of an Ohio federal judge last year, a case previously covered on this blog by Sarah Wiley. Like the Ohio law, the Massachusetts law criminalized telling lies about candidates for political office, and was as on the books for several decades before being successfully challenged in court. The lawsuit arose when a Democratic state representative alleged that a right-leaning PAC lied in a campaign brochure. The brochure in question alleged that Rep. Brian Mannal sponsored a bill that would “help convicted sex offenders” because he—as a defense attorney who had represented sex offenders in the past—stood to profit. Mannal maintained that he never provided legal representation to sex offenders. One of the bills in question would make GPS tracking devices optional for sex offenders on parole, rather than mandatory. After filing the bill in 2013, Mannal reported that he received death threats.

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