vision 2020

Kanye West Is Trying to Get on the Ballot in Wisconsin, a Crucial Swing State

Kanye West’s presidential campaign isn’t going well, but it’s still going. Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Kanye West is pushing ahead with his presidential campaign and is now trying to get on the ballot in Wisconsin, a pivotal swing state that was decided by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016.

The rapper has hired the petitioning firm Let the Voters Decide in a last-minute effort to get the 2,000 valid signatures needed to get on the ballot in Wisconsin by Tuesday at 5 p.m. The firm has deployed 45 people in the state to help make it happen.

Wisconsin is just the latest state where West is trying to get on the ballot.
He is also mounting an effort in the swing state of Ohio, as well as in states like Arkansas and West Virginia, in the coming days. The effort comes as over a dozen states have ballot deadlines in the next week, including Vermont and Colorado, where it is not necessary for candidates to petition their way onto the ballot.

West’s nascent third-party presidential campaign has hit a variety of road blocks in recent weeks after he declared his candidacy on Twitter and successfully paid a $35,000 filing fee to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma. Although the rapper’s presidential campaign filed the requisite number of signatures to appear on the ballot in Illinois, Missouri, and New Jersey, there’s a strong possibility that he may not appear on the ballot in any of those states.

In Illinois, West’s campaign barely cleared the threshold of 2,500 signatures required after a frenzied last-minute effort in the state that included canvassers standing in a supermarket parking lot next to the state board of elections only hours before the deadline. His campaign faces three different challenges in the Land of Lincoln that raise questions not only about the validity of the signatures he gathered but whether the paperwork submitted by West was inherently insufficient. Among other issues, the rapper did not submit the name of a vice presidential running mate or a slate of electors in Illinois.

In New Jersey, he faces allegations of fraud. Scott Salmon, a New Jersey elections lawyer, challenged West for submitting signatures that he described as the “most egregious” case of fraud he’s seen. Salmon told Intelligencer that he pulled up West’s petitions out of curiosity and it immediately jumped out to him: “Why does literally every signature on the same page look the same?” After going through the petitions, Salmon concluded that close to 700 of the 1,327 signatures West submitted were questionable. Further, West has not yet submitted the names of those who circulated petitions as required by New Jersey law.

The rapper needs 800 valid signatures to appear on the ballot in the Garden State. In addition, while West submitted a full slate of electors, Salmon discovered that half of them are not registered to vote in New Jersey and thus would be ineligible. One elector listed is Victory Boyd, an R&B singer close to Kanye whose father, John Boyd, was on the ground for the campaign in South Carolina serving as West’s “spiritual adviser.” An administrative court judge will hear arguments in the case on Tuesday morning.

The efforts in Wisconsin and Ohio are particularly notable for West because they would represent the first presidential swing states where his campaign would appear on the ballot. West started to mount an effort in July in Florida before deciding not to follow through.

To appear on the ballot in Ohio, West will need to gather 5,000 valid signatures by Wednesday at 5 p.m. One well-connected politico in the state was skeptical that the rapper could do so. “It’s a challenge” said the operative, who spoke on background in order to discuss the West campaign freely. “Last-minute big-dollar efforts seem especially vulnerable” to falling short in Ohio, the source noted, pointing to Jon Heavey, an aspiring 2018 gubernatorial candidate who failed to petition his way onto the ballot first as a Democrat and then as an independent — despite spending over $1 million on the effort.

West faces lower burdens in Arkansas and West Virginia, which both have August 3 deadlines. His campaign had been petitioning in West Virginia since last weekend and will need to submit over 7,000 valid signatures. In Arkansas, only 1,000 signatures are required.

The West campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

This post has been updated. It originally stated that the campaign needed 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Wisconsin. The requirement is 2,000 signatures.