What's Behind Republicans' Alleged Efforts to Get Kanye West on the Ballot?

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© AP Photo / Michael Wyke

The famous rap star announced his entrance in the presidential election race as an independent candidate in July 2020.

While popular American rapper Kanye West appears poised to participate in the upcoming US presidential election as an independent candidate, James Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Maine at Farmington, said he doesn’t think that anyone actually considers Kanye “a serious contender”.

Pointing out that qualifying as an independent candidate for president is no easy task, with requirements varying from state to state, Melcher argued that there’s a possiblity Kanye “might not even qualify in enough states to win the election even if he wins everywhere he is on the ballot”.

At the same time, he noted that there are some Republicans who seem eager to help West “get on the ballot”, mentioning a recent story in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about such “quiet but seemingly well organized efforts” in Wisconsin.

“For example, nearly all of the electors on West’s slate in Wisconsin—having such a list is required to get on the ballot—are longtime Republican or Trump activists. It is hard to imagine such people are really West supporters. It is much more likely that this is a concerted effort to reduce Joe Biden’s share of the vote, which matters a great deal in close, swing states like Wisconsin”, he said. “They seem to hope that West will siphon votes away from Biden, particularly among Blacks and young people. But even some people who aren’t fans of West might vote for him as a statement against the two major parties.”

Melcher also remarked that, while the impact of a third party candidate is going to be limited in the election where “such a high percentage of voters have a very strong opinion” about US President Donald Trump, as well as “where a relatively high percentage of voters have already made up their minds”, when it comes to the election “in which a small number of votes swinging in a few key states could again determine the winner, it is possible these efforts for West could have an effect”.

“On the other hand, West has no experience as a candidate, is often unpredictable, and with a ticket named the Birthday Party, one wonders if he will carry through his campaign into November”, he mused.

Potential Distraction

At the same time, Quardricos Driskell, a federal lobbyist and professor of politics with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, insisted that Trump’s allies and the Republicans are “privately fearing a significant loss in November”, one that might “leave them without the White House or a majority in either chamber of Congress next year”.

He suggested that “Trumpers and Republican activists” who aid Kanye West are “yet another attack and trick to divert and dilute voter turnout and thwart the general election”.

“This is no different than the fallacious rhetoric by Trump and his supporters regarding absentee voting”, Driskell stated. “American voters need to focus on the factual issues at stake and not become distracted by news and deceits”.

Why Wisconsin

Meanwhile, David Schultz, a professor in the political science department at Hamline University, argued that it’s rather interesting that “members of the Republican Party are assisting Kanye West get on the ballot, especially in states such as Wisconsin”, considering that, normally, a political party would hardly be interested in helping a candidate from another party in such a matter.

Describing Wisconsin as a “critical residential swing state which Donald Trump won four years ago”, Schultz said that the US president needs to win there again in order to prevail in his re-election, while at this time, polls suggest that his Democratic rival Joe Biden “has a slight lead”.

“Four years ago Trump benefitted in Wisconsin and nationwide from a low turnout of African-Americans, including in Wisconsin where in Milwaukee there is a large population. By helping West get on the ballot the belief is that African-Americans will vote for the rap singer, splitting the vote between him and Joe Biden”, Schultz said. “Such a split vote, when polls suggest that Biden will win 90 percent+ of the African-American vote, will help Trump in critical states such as Wisconsin”.

He noted, however, that “at this late point it will be hard for West to get on many state ballots because the laws regarding ballot access and qualification have already expired or passed”.

“This is why lawsuits are being filed to challenge the laws”, Schultz added.

Kanye West announced his presidential bid in July, presenting himself as an independent candidate.

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