Tom Umberg

Senator Umberg modernizes the California filing process for Presidential candidates of the United States

Senate Bill 505 (SB 505) authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D – Santa Ana) was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill, sponsored by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla updates the filing requirements for Presidential candidates seeking to compete in California’s primary election. The law will take effect for the 2020 Presidential Primary.

“2016 saw a record number of candidates running for President of the United States, and that looks to be repeated heading into the 2020 Presidential Election,” said Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana). “California’s influence on national politics is undeniable. I’m glad to be authoring the law to ensure that our taxpayer resources are focused on the candidates who are serious about leading. Voting should be a simple and transparent process and this law will ensure that happens.”

Under previous law, candidates running for a presidential nomination were not even required to submit documentation or file formal paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to appear on the California primary ballot. The Secretary of State would simply place the names of candidates on the ballot if they are ‘generally recognized’ as running for a party’s presidential nomination. This bill changes this process by defining criteria for how a candidate is deemed “generally recognized” as running to President and consequently placed on the California ballot.

“With California’s presidential primary moving to “primetime” in March 2020, candidates should demonstrate that they are serious about winning votes in the Golden State,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Modernizing the law ensures that there are clear and transparent filing requirements for presidential candidates to meet in order to appear in California’s March 2020 primary election. SB 505 strengthens our position in the presidential nominating process, while maintaining fair access to the ballot.”

SB 505 defines criteria that candidates must meet in order to qualify as being ‘generally recognized’ for a presidential nomination. The law sets minimal criteria for candidates seeking ballot access.

Candidates will simply have to submit specified documentation to the Secretary of State’s office demonstrating they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Qualified for funding under the Federal Election Campaign Act
  • Qualified or been placed on another state’s presidential primary or caucus ballot
  • Qualified for or has appeared in another state’s caucuses
  • Appeared in a national presidential debate
  • Has the following: a campaign website, and a written request to appear on the California ballot submitted on the candidate’s behalf by a qualified political party.

Candidates now must meet the criteria to be a ‘generally recognized’ candidate for president each election cycle. Under SB 505, the Secretary of State will announce the candidates who met the ‘generally recognized’ criteria 88 days prior to the primary election date. Qualifying as ‘generally recognized’ in 2020 will not guarantee that a candidate would make it on the ballot in 2024, for example.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Tom Umberg.

Editor’s Note: Senate Bill 505 is not to be confused with Senate Bill 27. While both laws affect the people appearing on the ballot, SB 27 barred candidates from appearing on the ballot if they haven’t released their income tax returns in the past five years.