Kanye West’s presidential campaign is moving to get on the ballot in two new purple states, Minnesota and Virginia, after filing Friday in Iowa.
The three states join Wisconsin, Ohio, and Colorado as competitive states where West has filed to be a presidential candidate. The rapper has been officially certified as a candidate in Colorado but in Wisconsin, his filing is currently the subject of multiple challenges that include claims that his signatures were fraudulently obtained and that the rapper did not file to get on the ballot in time.
West, whose wife, Kim, posted about him experiencing a bipolar episode in late July, will face issues in Iowa as well. The rapper, who registered to vote for the first time last month, did so as a Republican in his home of Wyoming. Interestingly, West’s registration as a Republican came five days after he announced his presidential campaign on Twitter.
The challenge that poses for the rapper is that, in his affidavit of candidacy, West said he was “not affiliated with any party.” Iowa Code requires a candidate to include “the political party with which the candidate is a registered voter.” There is a precedent from 2018 where a registered Democrat attempted to run as a Republican and his candidacy was thrown out as a result. In its ruling, the board that hears challenges said “critically Iowa Code does not ask for which political party the candidate intends to run. Rather the code requires the candidate to list on his or her nomination petition the political party with which he or she is registered. This is intended to give the eligible electors asked to sign the nomination petition true and accurate information to make an informed decision.”
Even if he gets on the ballot, top operatives in the state were skeptical of his impact. “I don’t think it matters,” David Kochel, a top Republican operative, told Intelligencer, “I suppose for people who are so disgusted with politics maybe there is a protest vote that happens if they don’t like either candidate, but it won’t be determinative.” Kochel also raised questions about what motivated those assisting West’s campaign, “Now I ain’t sayin’ they’re a gold digger, but these consultants ain’t working for free.”
Jeff Link, a veteran Democratic operative in the state, echoed this. He was skeptical of West’s appeal at the ballot box as a third-party candidate. “He’s no Gary Johnson,” said the longtime Democrat. Link also took a shot at the involvement of Republicans in the effort to put West on the ballot. “It is revealing that the Republicans will do anything to confuse, distract, and distort the law in order to hang on to power,” he told Intelligencer.
Todd Henderson, a longtime Republican operative, signed one form that West submitted. The lawyer who submitted the petitions, Brian Rickert is also an active Republican and all six of the electors that West submitted were registered Republicans as well.
Moving forward, Minnesota has been considered one of Donald Trump’s best opportunities to win a state that he lost in 2016, and the president has scheduled a campaign rally there on Monday to coincide with the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Hillary Clinton only narrowly won the North Star State by 1.5 percent in the last presidential election. To get on the ballot there, West only has to obtain 2,000 valid signatures by August 18.
His burden to get on the ballot in Virginia is higher. There, in a once safely Republican state that has swung heavily toward Democrats in recent years, West must file at least 2,500 valid signatures by August 21. However, he has the added burden of needing 200 signatures from each of the Old Dominion’s 11 congressional districts to qualify for the ballot.
In addition, as first reported by the Tennesseean on Friday, West’s campaign is attempting to get on the ballot in Tennessee, which has a minimal threshold of 275 valid signatures for presidential hopefuls.
Questions have continued to be raised about the West campaign’s ties to Republican operatives. These have intensified after the revelation from the New York Times that West met last weekend with Jared Kushner.
Forbes has reported that West and Kushner talk almost daily and the rapper told the publication, “I love Jared … that’s my boy.” Kushner insisted to reporters that they only talked about policy and not West’s presidential campaign.
The campaign has also replaced one elector with Republican ties in Vermont with another elector with Republican ties. Chuck Wilton, who is also a delegate to the Republican National Convention this month in Charlotte, was removed as a West elector and replaced by Bradford Broyles, the former chair of the Rutland County Republican Party. Broyles also served as campaign manager for Wilton’s wife, Wendy, when she was the Republican nominee for Vermont state treasurer in 2012. She has since taken an appointment in the Trump administration.
In addition, the signature firm that West has been using in many states, Let the Voters Decide, employs an operative named Mark Jacoby, who was charged with voter fraud while working for the California Republican Party in 2008.
In a statement, Let the Voters Decide said: “Political adversaries often attempt to slander Mr. Jacoby personally due to the fact that he was the subject of a politically motivated public arrest in California 12 years ago on charges that were ultimately reduced to a minor misdemeanor. The facts of the actual charge were that Mr. Jacoby, then a 25-year-old, had mistakenly registered at a childhood address. This years-old misdemeanor charge had nothing to do with any political campaign or voter, Let the Voters Decide, voter registrations, elections, or any other matter and any ongoing focus on it is misplaced and irresponsible.”
As of Friday, West’s campaign is officially on the ballot in four states, Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Vermont — with another half dozen pending. It is mathematically impossible for him to earn the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, however. So far, he has only held one formal campaign event last month in South Carolina, although he tweeted Friday evening to urge his two top rivals, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, to meet with the author of a book that he reportedly touted in his meeting with Kushner. Neither the Biden nor the Trump campaign immediately responded to requests about whether they would follow West’s suggestion.