Kanye West’s presidential effort in W.Va. denied
CHARLESTON — An effort by rapper Kanye West to make West Virginia’s Nov. 3 general election ballot for president came to an end Monday as the hands of a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied a request by the West campaign for a preliminary injunction against the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office to force election officials to include his name as an independent candidate for president according to a ruling released Monday.
According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, West came up short of the 7,144 signatures required from registered voters in order to appear on the ballot. West’s campaign filed a certificate of candidacy and submitted more than 14,000 signatures on Aug. 3, the deadline for candidates to submit signatures for ballot access. The Secretary of State’s Office notified the West campaign three weeks later that only 6,383 signatures were confirmed.
West filed suit against the Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The motion for preliminary injunction was filed on Aug. 31.
Attorneys for West argued that West Virginia’s signature requirement for ballot access was too onerous. In her ruling, Berger accused the West campaign of waiting until the very last minute to submit signatures and that the fault was with his own campaign.
“(West’s) own lack of diligence contributed to his inability to meet the signature requirement in this case,” Berger wrote. “Rather than submitting signatures early for review so that signatures could be supplemented as they were invalidated, (West) submitted all of his signatures on the absolute deadline for filing. As such, the Plaintiff left himself without adequate time to remedy invalidation and submit additional signatures to cure the deficit.”
Berger agreed with the arguments against the injunction by the Secretary of State’s Office. Candidate ballot position has already been determined at the county level, with ballots drafted, proofed, and approved. By law, counties must have their ballots printed and ready for distribution by Friday. Berger cited a similar ruling made by U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston last month against Del. S. Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, an independent candidate for governor. Wilson also failed to secure the required number of signatures.
“At this late stage, there is almost no doubt that granting the preliminary injunction would delay timely delivery of the ballots since the ballots would have to be reprinted to include the Plaintiff and his running mate,” Berger wrote. “… The court finds the harm that would be inflicted on the government and the public at large if the injunction were granted is greater than the harm that would be inflicted on (West) if the preliminary injunction were denied.”
West’s attorneys also argued that the stay-at-home executive order and closure of non-essential businesses between March 23 and the end of April by Gov. Jim Justice hindered his campaign from collecting signatures even though his campaign didn’t officially launch until July.
“Plaintiff did not even begin his campaign, however, until months after the Governor’s ‘Stay at Home Order’ was lifted, and West Virginia does not impose an in-person signature requirement,” Berger wrote. “Therefore, any alleged additional burdens imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and Governor Justice’s ‘Stay at Home Order’ and subsequent ‘Safer at Home Order’ are not grounds for granting the injunction in this case.”
West, known for being one of the best-selling rap artists in the digital market and recording 11 albums since 2004, started his independent presidential bid on July 4 with vice presidential candidate Michelle Tidball. The two are running under the banner of the Birthday Party.
While supportive of Republican President Donald Trump over the last few years, West told Forbes Magazine that Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic influenced his decision to run. Trump worked with West’s wife Kim Kardashian on criminal justice reform, including the commutation of sentences for several non-violent offenders.
Efforts by the West campaign to get on the ballots of other states — such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Arizona — have not been successful. According to ABC News, West is on the ballot in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Utah, Idaho, Iowa Tennessee, Colorado, Minnesota and Vermont. An additional lawsuit is pending in Mississippi.