Judge Rules Against Kanye’s Campaign, Pulls Rapper From Virginia Ballot

Kanye West makes his first presidential campaign appearance, July 19, 2020 in North Charleston, S.C. (Lauren Petracca Ipetracca/The Post And Courier via AP)

By Brian Carlton
September 3, 2020

Judge Taylor finds West’s campaign acquired most of the “elector oaths” through fraud or false pretense.

RICHMOND-Kanye West will not be on most of Virginia’s presidential ballots this November. After hearing arguments Thursday afternoon, Richmond Judge Joi Taylor ruled that West’s campaign acquired most of their elector signatures through “improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means.” 

In order to get on Virginia’s ballot as an independent, candidates like West have to provide multiple documents. First, they need a petition from at least 5,000 registered voters, including 200 signatures from each congressional district. Second, they need signed and notarized “oaths” from 13 electors, residents who promise to cast votes in the Electoral College for the candidate, should they win the state. 

Signatures Obtained By Fraud 

Taylor ruled Thursday that 11 of the 13 elector signatures were invalid due to a variety of reasons. In some cases, the documents weren’t properly notarized. One signature was notarized by a person whose notary license had expired and several others had been notarized by another elector, in violation of Virginia law. In Virginia, no one can notarize a document they benefit from. Then there’s the case of Matthan Wilson and Bryan Wright, the two men who filed the lawsuit against the State Board of Elections. Both men said no one told them these were elector’s oaths for West. 

In their lawsuit, Wilson said someone had approached him on Aug. 11, asking if he would volunteer to be an elector for the state. On that same day, Wright claimed someone had approached him and asked if he would sign a petition to put Kanye on the ballot in Virginia. The same goes for another elector, Samantha Durant. In a signed affidavit, she claimed that someone walked up and asked if she’d sign a petition to get an independent candidate on the Virginia ballot. 

The campaign argued they never misrepresented anything. In his response to the lawsuit, Roanoke-based attorney Chris Kowalczuk argued that Wilson and Wright “knowingly executed a document entitled, in bold, ‘Oath for Electors for President and Vice President, Third Party,’ in the presence of a notary public.” He claimed that both men knew what they signed and understood what it meant, despite their argument to the contrary. In court, however, Kowalczuk took a different tactic. He asked Judge Taylor to delay the hearing, saying the campaign needed more time to study the evidence. Taylor rejected that request.

Taylor Hands Down A Ruling

Taking arguments from both sides in, Judge Taylor ruled that the State Board of Elections made a mistake by putting West on the ballot. The judge ordered the board to strike the 11 invalid elector oaths from West’s petition. Also, Taylor ordered all cities and counties to remove West’s name as a presidential candidate in Virginia from their ballots. Now this creates a problem in some areas. Places like Virginia Beach already printed ballots, with local officials concerned they were running out of time. In those cases, Taylor ordered the cities and counties to take all necessary measures “to provide notice to voters of Kanye West’s disqualification.”

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