Kanye West's presidential campaign besieged by legal setbacks, missed deadlines, ballot troubles

Rapper has been knocked off the ballot in two states, accused of fraudulent filings.

Updated: September 6, 2020 - 6:47am

The presidential campaign of rapper Kanye West has been dealt several blows as judges in two states disqualified it from the ballot due to rules violations and alleged fraudulent filings.

The legal setbacks continue a string of campaign difficulties that have mostly rendered the signer a non-competitor in the 2020 election.

West, who announced his campaign via Twitter on July 4, already appeared destined to lose before this week, having missed filing deadlines to appear on the ballot in a majority of U.S. states and been barred from the ballot in several more.

Only on the ballot in 10 states

West, whose multi-decade career includes 21 Grammys and a high-profile marriage to reality star Kim Kardashian, has expressed a variety of political opinions and aspirations in recent years. In 2015 he first announced a desire to run for president; he initially suggested he would run in 2024 before announcing his campaign earlier this year. 

West has in the recent past famously voiced his support for President Trump. In October he attended a highly publicized meeting at the Oval Office with the president. In July, however, he announced his opposition to Trump, criticizing the president for his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States. 

Yet his campaign against the president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden appears to be doomed to failure. As of Friday, West's name was only on the ballot in 10 states: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Utah, Tennessee, Vermont and Colorado. He has missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in 28 states plus the District of Columbia. In another nine states, he has  either been kicked off or withdrawn his request to be on the ballot. 

Those 10 states represent just 70 electoral votes, well short of the 270 a candidate needs to secure the presidency. The three remaining states in which West may end up being on the ballot — all of whose deadlines were Friday —would total just 18 electoral votes. 

Possible forged signatures, elector deceit

In some cases, West's campaign has aroused suspicions of improper and deceptive efforts to qualify for inclusion on the ballot. In New Jersey in August, for instance, West withdrew his ballot petition after questions arose over the signatures the campaign had obtained to gain access to the ballot; numerous signatures were observed to have distinctly similar handwriting styles. 

In Virginia on Thursday, meanwhile, a circuit judge directed state officials to remove West from that state's ballot, claiming that he had obtained signatures through "improper, fraudulent or misleading means." Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Virginia election officials claimed that they had been misled into signing up as electors for West. 

And the Illinois Board of Elections determined in early August that nearly 2,000 signatures on West's ballot petition were invalid, leaving him well short of the minimum amount of signatures needed to qualify in that state. 

Rumors that West is serving as a 'spoiler' for Trump

The effectively impossible odds faced by West in the election — as well as his past public support for Trump — have led commentators to speculate that the rapper is running as a "spoiler" in the race, seeking to siphon off a critical mass of black voters from Joe Biden, splitting the vote and thus handing Trump a win in November. 

West has denied those claims. But in at least one case his campaign has been associated with numerous GOP operatives, lending at least some measure of support to the rumors that his intent in the race might be to function as a vote-splitter. 

In a lawsuit West filed last month seeking to gain access to the Wisconsin ballot, the entertainer listed his address as that of Northern Virginia law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky; that firm's founder, Jill Vogel, is a Republican state senator and was the 2017 nominee for Virginia Lt. Governor during that year's gubernatorial race; she was also at one point the chief counsel of the Republican National Committee.

Also present in that firm is Tom Josefiak, another former chief counsel to the RNC, as well as William McGinley, a former Trump White House official who served as assistant to the president and cabinet secretary.

West is actually being represented in that suit by the Minnesota law firm of Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson; that firm on its website blamed "a clerical error" for Vogel's address appearing on the suit. West has since changed that address to a Wisconsin location.

Though critics have accused West of functioning as a potential siphon for Biden's voters, West himself has expressed notably conservative views in recent years; he has lately been vocal about his opposition to abortion, and has criticized individuals who want to "take Jesus out of school," as he said in October.

On his campaign website, however, he has notably advocated several progressive-associated goals such as police reform and taking "care of the environment."

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