Kanye West faced some 5:01 and heartbreak on Thursday.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission tossed out West’s efforts to qualify for the 2020 presidential ballot in the swing state, ruling that because his campaign didn’t submit its ballot signatures until shortly after the state's 5 p.m. legal deadline on August 4, they weren’t valid to qualify him for the ballot.
The 5-1 ruling by the bipartisan commission is the latest blow to West’s quixotic and shambolic campaign, which has been buoyed by organized Republican efforts to try to help him qualify for the ballot in hopes he’ll siphon young and Black votes away from Joe Biden.
The decision comes after Republicans made a quiet last-minute push to qualify West for the ballot. Signature-gatherers spent the last two days before the state filing deadline trying to qualify the rapper for the ballot.
As VICE News first reported, the signatures were submitted by Lane Ruhland, a well-established Republican attorney who just weeks ago represented President Trump’s campaign in court. But she just missed the legal cutoff to get West on as a spoiler candidate.
Ruhland claimed in an affidavit that she was told she was in the office at 5 p.m. and 14 seconds, and West’s current lawyer, Mike Curran, argued that this counted as by no later than 5 p.m. But according to testimonial from the commission staff, Ruhland entered the building until 5 p.m. and 14 seconds, and didn’t enter the office itself until 5:01 or 5:02. Even after she entered the office she needed “several minutes” to organize and number the papers before she handed them off to the office staff, according to testimony.
Dean Knudson, a Republican member of the commission, pointed out that the law requires the papers “be in the physical possession” of the election officers, and noted that most of Curran’s arguments focused on delays caused at the door of the building.
“Five o’clock is five o’clock. I understand you're trying to make the argument that five o’clock is 5:01,” said Knudson. “If we had set a timer to go off at 5, would the papers have been in on time or not?”
Ruhland’s failed effort appears to be part of a broader, somewhat coordinated effort by Republicans to get West on the ballot in a number of states. Well-connected Republicans also worked to qualify West for the ballot in a number of other states including Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont.
The efforts from West’s quasi-campaign and the GOP mischief-makers trying to help him haven’t gone so well, however. West’s efforts to get on the ballot in Montana, Illinois, and New Jersey were all rejected after staff failed to get enough valid signatures to qualify.
It’s unclear whether West’s attorneys might file a lawsuit to try to appeal the rules. But it appears that Wisconsin, perhaps the most important swing state in the country, will join that list.
“The thing I’m worried about the most is setting precedent. We need to determine whether something is late or not late,” said Marge Bostelmann, another GOP commissioner. “If it’s after five o’clock, it’s considered late.”
It wasn’t unanimous. One Republican insisted that in spite of the prevailing evidence, West made the ballot. And he accused the Democrats who challenged West’s ballot qualifications of racism.
“When are they going to stop suppressing the Black vote?” asked Bob Spindell, the lone commissioner to vote to allow West on the ballot.
Cover: American rapper Kanye West poses before Christian Dior 2015-2016 fall/winter ready-to-wear collection fashion show on March 6, 2015 in Paris. PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images