Brown County judge rules to keep Kanye West off Wisconsin presidential ballot

Wisconsin Elections Commission staff found Kanye West had enough valid signatures to make the...
Wisconsin Elections Commission staff found Kanye West had enough valid signatures to make the presidential ballot but missed the deadline to submit them.
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 10:18 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Brown County judge has denied Kanye West’s bid to get on Wisconsin’s presidential ballot.

In a ruling Friday, Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski sided with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, agreeing that West’s people were too late bringing his nomination petitions to the WEC office in Madison.

As we’ve reported, West’s attorneys argued the nomination papers were delivered seconds after 5 p.m. but before 5:01 p.m., and therefore met the deadline on August 4. The deadline is set in state law, but Wisconsin Administrative Code further states nomination papers must be “in the physical possession” of the office by that deadline.

The elections commission said West’s representatives entered the building seconds after 5 o’clock and didn’t reach their office on the third floor until minutes later.

Judge Zakowski rejected West’s attorneys' argument that 14 seconds after 5 p.m. is still within the 5 p.m. deadline because another minute hasn’t ticked by.

“The court used the analogy of midnight. There is a significant difference between 11:59:59 p.m. and one second after midnight. The passage of a second after midnight confers an entirely new day,” the judge’s ruling states.

According to the written ruling, West campaign representative Lane Ruhland was advised by elections commission staff that the building would be locked before 5 p.m. and Ruhland would have to call a number posted on the building to gain access. “The court is troubled that the very agency tasked wit monitoring elections would have its doors locked the very day that nomination papers were due no later than 5:00 p.m.,” Zakowski writes. “The fact that it was the owner of the building who locked the doors for COVID-19 reasons does not change the fact the door was locked.”

But Zakowski concludes the ruling, “The unfortunate fact is this dispute could have been avoided had the West representatives simply arrived earlier. The court is aware the signatures were gathered in roughly two days, but it has also been told Ms. Ruhland knew of the statutory requirement... and had been in contact with the Commission that day. In effect, plaintiffs ‘dropped the ball’ by not ensuring they would be able to timely file the nomination papers."

Zakowski also heard arguments that county clerks were facing time constraints mailing presidential ballots to absentee voters. He said that could not be a deciding factor in the case.

County clerks are also waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling on Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins who was kept off the ballot when the commission deadlocked on a decision whether he submitted proper paperwork (see related story), which could still delay the mailing of ballots.

West’s campaign filed the lawsuit in Brown County because one of West’s electors, Fred Krumberger, lives in Hobart and would vote in the electoral college if Wisconsin voted for West.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission tried unsuccessfully to move the lawsuit to federal court.

West’s efforts to get on the presidential ballot have been denied in a number of states, either because the campaign missed the filing deadline or because the nominating petitions didn’t have enough valid signatures. In Arizona he was rejected because he filed as an independent candidate but is a registered Republican.

Republicans have been supportive of West’s efforts to get on ballots (see related story). Democrats accuse the rapper of trying to be a spoiler to take votes from their candidate, Joe Biden, particularly in states where the race between Biden and Donald Trump is expected to be close. West was openly a fan of Donald Trump early in his presidency.

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