Kanye West’s presidential campaign has suffered a humiliating setback, with a judge throwing his name off the ballot in a key state.
Earlier this week, two men filed a writ against the State Board of Elections and the Department of Elections in Virginia, alleging the Birthday Party – yes, that is what West’s party is called – had obtained their signatures as electors “under false pretences”.
You might be wondering what an elector even is.
Under America’s political system, the goal of a presidential candidate is not to win the popular vote, but to claim a majority of electoral votes.
Technically, Americans do not vote directly for a candidate, even though that’s the name they choose on their ballot. They are voting for electors, who then form the Electoral College and officially choose the president.
To qualify for the ballot, each candidate must nominate the required number of electors – the people who will vote for them at the Electoral College if they win.
Does that make sense? I hope so. It’s a weird system.
Anyway, Virginia has 13 electoral votes, which means each candidate has to find 13 electors to qualify. They also need 5000 people to sign a petition in support of them.
West appeared to have reached that threshold. Late last month, the state’s Department of Elections announced he would appear on the ballot as an independent candidate.
Then, however, several of the people West had identified as his electors came forward, telling US media they were deceived into giving their signatures.
“I am so embarrassed. I don’t want to be an elector for Kanye West. I don’t want to vote for Kanye West. I only like one or two of his songs,” one of them, high school teacher Matthan Wilson told The Washington Post.
Mr Wilson said he only found out he was an elector for West because a reporter had asked him about it.
He said he’d been duped into giving his signature when three people approached him during a bike ride and asked him whether he wanted to be in a “statewide pool of electors”.
New York Magazine reported that seven of West’s 13 electors had no idea what their signatures were being used for.
Hence, the writ. It was filed by two of the electors, Mr Wilson and Bryce Wright.
“Wilson was not told that he was committing to vote for West or any other candidate,” the writ said.
“He did not know he was signing to be an elector for West. Kanye West’s name was never mentioned.”
It quoted Mr Wright as saying he would “never” have signed the form if he had known it committed him to act as an elector for West.
The plaintiffs argued the relevant government bodies had “a clear duty to revisit and reverse their decision to qualify West’s candidacy”.
Judge Joi Jeter-Taylor agreed. In her decision today, she found that 11 of West’s 13 electors were “obtained by improper, fraudulent or misleading means, or are otherwise invalid because of notarial violations and misconduct”.
Therefore, they don’t count, and West has not fulfilled the requirements to get placed on the ballot.
Judge Taylor ordered election officials to “not permit Kanye West’s name to be printed on ballots for the general election”.
If any localities have already printed their ballots, with West’s name on them, they must “take all necessary measures to provide notice to voters” of his disqualification.
It has never been entirely clear how serious West’s presidential campaign is. As things stand, he has only qualified for the ballot in 10 states, which combined are worth just 70 of the 270 electoral votes he would need to win.
Those states are Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Louisiana and Vermont.
West tried and failed to get his ballot access approved in nine states, including Virginia, and he missed the filing deadlines in another 28.
His public campaign appearances have been infrequent and bizarre. At his first political rally in July, the rapper broke down in tears during a monologue about abortion.
The emotional moment came as West revealed that he and his wife, Kim Kardashian, considered not having their first child, North West.
“She said, ‘I’m pregnant.’ I said, ‘Yes!’ Then I said, ‘No.’ I gotta tell you what was in my mind. She was crying,” West told the crowd.
“She said she was pregnant, and for one month, and two months, and three months, we talked about her not having this child. She had the pills in her hand. When you take the pills, and if you take it, the baby’s gone.
“I was sitting up in Paris, and I had my leather pants on. I’m in the apartment where my wife was actually robbed, and I had my laptop up, and I got all my creative ideas – I got my shoes, I got my next album cover, I got all this – and the screen went black and white. And God said, ‘If you f**k with my vision, I’m going to f**k with yours.’
“And I called my wife and she said, ‘We’re gonna have this baby.’ I said, ‘We’re gonna have this child. I know people that are 50 years old that didn’t have children, that have never been able to experience the level of joy that I experienced having a child.
“So even if my wife were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world, even when I didn’t want to. She stood up and she protected that child.
“You know who else protected a child? Who do you think might have protected a child? My mum saved my life. My dad wanted to abort me. My mum saved my life. There would have been no Kanye West, because my dad was too busy!”
At that point West started to cry, and it became difficult to discern much of what he was saying.
“I almost killed my daughter! I almost killed my daughter!” he shouted.
“We love you Kanye!” some members of the crowd shouted back.
That was followed by a string of mostly unintelligible sentences.
“They’re going to run this, they’re going to try to tell you that I’m crazy. The world’s crazy,” West said.
That gives you an idea of how West’s campaign has gone so far. There is room for improvement.