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) Kanye
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)

In documents filed Tuesday, West’s attorneys argue Richmond Judge Joi Taylor made multiple errors in the original ruling.

RICHMOND-One week after being removed from Virginia’s presidential ballot, Kanye West wants another chance. The rapper and U.S. presidential candidate filed an appeal Tuesday night with the Virginia Supreme Court, asking them to hear his case. 

On Sept. 3, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor ruled against West’s campaign, saying the group acquired 11 of their 13 elector signatures through “improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means.” This came after two of those electors, Matthan Wilson and Bryan Wright, filed a lawsuit, requesting to be removed from the list.

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. 

Both Wilson and Wright said West’s campaign tricked them into signing the document. Neither man intended to vote for West or serve as an elector. One other elector, Samantha Durant, also said the campaign tricked her into signing the form. The lawsuit also showed multiple other signatures weren’t notarized properly. Taylor agreed, removing the 11 electors from the list. With only two properly signed elector oaths, West at that point no longer qualified as a candidate. As a result, Taylor ordered his name removed from all Virginia ballots. 

Lawyers Challenge Opposing Testimony

For this appeal, West’s campaign brought on two new lawyers: Mark Braden and Trevor Stanley. If those names seem familiar, it’s because both men represented the Virginia Republican Party earlier this year in their fight over absentee ballots. In Virginia, absentee voters have to get a witness to watch them sign their ballots. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit to block the requirement this year. The Virginia Republican Party, represented by Braden and Stanley, opposed that request. 

Now part of Kanye’s legal team, the two men outlined several issues they had with Judge Taylor’s original decision. In the filing, they challenged Wilson’s testimony, which he gave during the Sept. 3 hearing. Wilson, a government teacher in Suffolk, testified that three people came up to him on Aug. 11. They asked him to be an “elector for the state.” If he signed, they told Wilson, his name would be “entered into a poll to be individually picked to be part of the Electoral College.” 

West’s team argued the conversation didn’t happen that way. They presented an affidavit from Joseph Durell, who was one of the three people that talked with Wilson. In his affidavit, Durell said campaign staff told Wilson “explicitly” this was for West’s campaign. Specifically, that he “was being asked to serve as an elector for Mr. West.” The same goes for Wright, who Durell said he also spoke with. Wright was “particularly enthusiastic about supporting Mr. West and his campaign in whatever way he could,” according to Durell’s affidavit. That last part completely goes against Wright’s own description of himself as a committed Republican who didn’t want to vote for West. 

Was There Another Option?

A key part of the appeal is the campaign’s argument that Wilson and Wright didn’t follow the law. Instead of a lawsuit that removed West as a candidate, Braden and Stanley point to Section 24.2-1019 of the Virginia Code, which states private citizens can file a complaint with the local Commonwealth Attorney over any alleged election misconduct. They also argue that under Virginia Code 24.2-203, if Wilson and Wright didn’t want to serve as electors, they could have just stepped down. 

“The statutory scheme appreciates that persons identified as electors may not follow through with their duties, whether because of “death, failure or inability to attend, refusal to act, or other cause”—including a belief of being induced on improper terms—and the remedy is for the remaining electors to designate replacements,” Tuesday’s filing says. “Nothing in the statute provides that, if electors withdraw for any reason, a candidate formerly certified can be ejected from the ballot in a court proceeding.” 

Issues With The Ballots

West’s team asked for an expedited hearing, but as of Wednesday night, it was unclear when the case would be heard. This situation creates a problem for Virginia’s election in that early voting begins Sept. 18. That’s just over a week from now. That means all cities and counties need to have absentee and in-person ballots printed by then. Even before the original lawsuit, some places like Virginia Beach questioned if they would have enough time to get ballots printed. As a result, they’ve already shipped materials to the vendor. That means regardless of what happens this week, some places will have Kanye West’s name listed as a presidential candidate and others might not.