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Galvin backs tax disclosures for presidential ballot access

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s top elections official, will throw his support behind an effort, inspired by President Trump’s refusal to disclose his finances, to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s ballot.

Galvin is set to testify before a legislative committee on Wednesday, the same day as the deadline for Attorney General Maura Healey to decide whether a similar initiative is eligible to appear on the 2018 state ballot via voter petition.

Both measures would mandate that candidates for president and vice president file tax returns with the state in order to land on the Massachusetts ballot, with the returns published online. The petition needs to garner enough signatures to qualify and then clear a legislative hurdle.

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Separately, the bill would need to pass both chambers and get a sign-off by Governor Charlie Baker.

“This is not about Donald Trump, but it’s because of Donald Trump,” said Galvin, a Brighton Democrat. “The fact that he’s been successful getting elected president obscuring his sources of income even to this day, I think, is of significant concern.”

State law requires elected officials to file disclosures regarding income and financial interests such as stock and real estate holdings. Galvin said states have “a significant amount of latitude” around ballot qualifications.

The disclosure requirement would likely make Massachusetts the first in the nation to require tax returns for ballot access, Galvin said.

He said he would talk Wednesday with lawmakers about constitutional intricacies and questions about what exactly should be included in the tax disclosures.

“You don’t want to pass something that will become subject to a restraining order or struck down,” Galvin said in a phone interview.

“I support the policy, I think we have to look at the legitimate question that it raises, and I think it’s a consistent and important thing for Massachusetts to do, but I think we have to be careful how we do it so we don’t set ourselves up for a constitutional challenge,” he added.

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Last year, Trump became the only major-party presidential nominee since 1976 not to release at least some tax returns.


Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.