Rapper Kanye West Kicked Off Virginia Ballot by Court Order
RICHMOND — Rap star Kanye West was booted off Virginia’s ballot this week by a judge who accused him of using deceptive tactics to qualify as a candidate for president.
Last week, Virginia’s Board of Elections determined West qualified to be on the state’s ballot for the Nov. 3 election by obtaining 5,000 petition signatures and the support of 13 electors.
Two voters immediately filed a lawsuit to block West’s candidacy in Virginia.
On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Joi Jeter Taylor in Richmond ruled that the oaths of support from 11 electors were “obtained by improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means, or are otherwise invalid” because of improper notarization.
An elector refers to a person certified to represent their state’s vote in the Electoral College, whose majority decides the winner for president and vice president of the United States.
West, who is running as an independent candidate, also is accused of irregularities in the way he obtained signatures on his petition.
The only witness who testified at the hearing Thursday was Matthan Wilson, a high school government teacher from Suffolk, Va.
He said he was riding his bicycle when three people flagged him down to ask him whether he would like to be submitted into a statewide pool of electors. He signed their agreement but learned a week later from a reporter that the document was a pledge to be an elector for West.
His lawsuit, filed Wednesday with fellow Suffolk resident Bryan Wright, says state election officials “have a legal duty to ensure that only the names of the candidates who meet the requirements of Virginia law are placed on the ballots in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The lawsuit asked for immediate court intervention, particularly considering the state was on schedule to print ballots this week.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) appeared to side with the two voters when he filed a motion for the emergency hearing Thursday.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia, including the state elections officials and entities named as Defendants, does not tolerate any type of election fraud,” says Herring’s court filing.
West is not considered a serious contender for the presidency but could create a danger for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Political analysts say West could divert African American votes away from Biden, where the Democratic candidate has found some of his strongest support.
West was represented at the hearing Thursday by attorney Christopher K. Kowalczuk, who argued that removing an African American candidate from the ballot could create a bad image during a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was underscoring the importance of racial equality.
The teacher who filed the lawsuit admitted under questioning from West’s attorney that he should have read the agreement to become an elector more closely.
An attorney for the two voters argued the key issue was “fraud.” He also said a ruling for West to remain on the ballot could set a precedent that allows other potential candidates to use similar kinds of deceit.
West remains on the ballot in 10 states, which gives him no chance of winning the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. The 43-year-old’s vice presidential running mate is Wyoming-based spiritual life coach Michelle Tidball.
Some Democrats have speculated he is trying to ambush the Biden campaign. Previously, West was an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.
In other states, such as Arizona, Illinois, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Illinois, West has faced legal challenges similar to Virginia. State election officials and private lawsuit plaintiffs have accused him of blunders, such as invalid petition signatures and improper document filings.
In Arizona, state Judge Scott McCoy issued a ruling this week saying state law barred West from the ballot as an independent candidate for president because he’s a registered Republican.
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