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Donald Trump, then the president-elect, poses with Kanye West in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 13, 2016. (AP/Seth Wenig) Donald Trump, then the president-elect, poses with Kanye West in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 13, 2016. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Donald Trump, then the president-elect, poses with Kanye West in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 13, 2016. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Haley BeMiller
By Haley BeMiller August 21, 2020

‘Liberals’ did not deny Kanye West access to the November ballot

If Your Time is short

  • Wisconsin Democrats led the charge to remove West from the ballot. 

  • Some in the party have expressed concerns he would syphon votes from former Vice President Joe Biden in November. 

  • The effort to get West on the ballot had Republican ties and GOP officials have said they hope a West campaign would draw more than 100,000 votes.

  • But the final decision by the state Elections Commission to remove him was bipartisan.

The saga over Kanye West’s "Late Registration" continues.

Not the rapper’s old CD. His presidential ballot attempt.

West made a last-ditch effort to land a spot on Wisconsin’s presidential ballot, a move that made Democrats squirm and Republicans willing to lend a hand. 

But the state Elections Commission dealt a blow to West’s planned campaign on Aug. 20, 2020 when it decided that he filed his nomination papers too late.

And Republicans, naturally, blamed Democrats for the outcome.

In an Aug. 20, 2020 news release, the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued a news release with a headline that said West’s ballot access was "denied by liberals." 

"Wisconsin Democrats successfully fought to deny ballot access to an African American because he was seconds late with his paperwork, but they want to override Wisconsin law by delaying the deadline to accept absentee ballots because six weeks of ballot harvesting may not be enough for them to win," executive director Mark Jefferson said in the statement. "Let that sink in."

Setting aside the rhetoric, we’re looking at a particular claim — the one the party chose as its news release headline.

Is it true that Kanye didn’t get on the ballot because of liberals? 

The background

First, let’s get up to speed on West’s effort in Wisconsin. 

On Aug. 4, 2020, the rapper made a last-minute attempt to appear on Wisconsin’s Nov. 3 ballot as a member of the "Birthday Party." Wisconsin was among several states West targeted, but the effort here gained heightened attention because of the state’s crucial role in the presidential contest. 

From the beginning, it appeared that West’s campaign failed to deliver his nomination papers in time. Matt Smith, a reporter for WISN-TV in Milwaukee, tweeted a video of Lane Ruhland, an attorney President Donald Trump has used in another matter, walking into the state Election Commission’s building with West’s paperwork just after the 5 p.m. deadline.

The state Democratic Party subsequently filed a complaint saying West submitted his papers late, used bogus signatures such as "Mickey Mouse" and duped people into signing on his behalf. West’s campaign acknowledged it filed the papers 14 seconds past 5 p.m., but argued he wouldn’t have been "late" until 5:01 p.m. and should still appear on the ballot.

The campaign’s attorney also argued West was hindered by Democrats, the media and state elections officials. 

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That brings us to Aug. 20, when the state Elections Commission followed a staff recommendation and decided to keep West off the ballot. On a 5-1 vote, the commission determined that West didn’t file his paperwork in time. 

"I regret it's the case," said Dean Knudson, a former Republican state lawmaker appointed to a GOP slot on the commission. "I do not feel they filed timely."

The work of liberals?

When asked for evidence to support the GOP’s claim, party spokesman Alec Zimmerman accused Democrats of being "hypocritical" and argued their claim focused on the actions of Democrats, not the commission. 

"The candidate was presumed ballot access until the Democrats filed the challenge," Zimmerman said. "He would not have been denied access had the complaint by the Democrats not been filed."

But Zimmerman’s assertion is not correct. 

Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said the commission routinely denies ballot access to candidates without a challenge when there are issues with the paperwork, such as not securing the minimum number of signatures required. 

What’s more, the complaint filed by the state Democratic Party was one of two before the board. The second complaint was submitted by Joseph Santeler, an attorney for a Milwaukee bank. Little is known about his political involvement outside of $50 donations to Gov. Tony Evers’ campaign and to former Gov. Scott Walker. 

In the end, when it came time for a decision, two Republican appointees joined the Democratic appointees in voting to keep West off the ballot. 

Only Republican Commissioner Robert Spindell thought West should be on the ballot. 

Of note, Spindell had this to say in June 2020 when a challenge to nomination papers for state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, came in past the deadline:

"There’s been a long tradition over many, many years and I know personally many candidates that for various reasons or challenges or whatever didn’t get it in on time. They went to the wrong location. They had a flat tire. They didn’t catch the elevator. They were two minutes late. The situation with this type of problem is pretty clear in our past history, and I would suspect that two minutes is two minutes past the deadline."

Our ruling

In a statement, the Republican Party of Wisconsin said West’s access to the ballot was "denied by liberals."

Democrats led the charge to remove him and arguably had the most to lose if he appeared on the November ballot. But the final decision was bipartisan, with both Democrats and Republicans on the Elections Commission agreeing with a staff recommendation that he filed the paperwork too late.

Our definition of Mostly False is "The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."

That fits here.

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‘Liberals’ did not deny Kanye West access to the November ballot

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