Kanye West will likely be removed from the presidential ballot in New Jersey as well as his home state of Illinois after hundreds of suspect signatures were found in both nominating petitions, according to reports. White House correspondent April Ryan suggests that the "faulty signatures could open him up to an #ElectionFraud investigation."
West submitted 1,327 signatures to the state Division of Elections as part of his petition to get on the ballot in New Jersey by the July 27 cutoff. NJ.com reports that earlier this week, election lawyers questioned more than 700 signatures. Shortly after the discovery, West’s campaign withdrew his petition.
In Illinois, West needed to submit at least 2,500 signatures by July 20 to get on the ballot. However, the local hearing officer determined he only had 1,200 valid signatures, according to Chicago's WTTW. West’s lawyers reportedly have until August 21 to defend the validity of the signatures; Ed Mullen, one of the lawyers challenging West’s nominating petitions, has noted that the findings indicate West “is virtually certain to be kicked off the ballot” in Illinois.
Below, we've broken down what this means for Kanye West and his presidential bid.
Is it voter fraud?
There are a number of reasons signatures might be disputed. For example, names could be deemed invalid if they are spelled incorrectly, if the signator is a non-registered voter, or if they provide a fake address.
Nevertheless, the sheer number of potentially invalid signatures is concerning. More disturbing still are some of the figures collecting signatures for his campaign. A New York Times investigation found that Mark Jacoby is an executive at a company called Let the Voters Decide, which has been collecting signatures for the West campaign in Ohio, West Virginia, and Arkansas. Jacoby was arrested on voter fraud charges in 2008 while he was doing work for the California Republican Party.
Could Kanye West go to jail?
Although voter registration fraud carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, it's unlikely that West himself would serve time if signatures on either ballot were found to be fraudulent.
It's more likely that operatives misleading voters and falsifying signatures would face charges instead. For example, when Jacoby was found guilty of registering himself to vote twice when he was collecting signatures for the Republican Party, he faced four felony charges: two counts of voter registration fraud and two counts of perjury. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Is voter fraud a serious threat to democracy?
You've probably heard politicians talking about the threat of voter fraud in the lead-up to elections, but in reality, those committing the crimes are usually registration companies hired by campaigns (rather than individuals).
There’s less than three months before Election Day, and voter suppression remains the more serious problem in the US. Discriminatory voter ID laws, fewer polling sites, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and now cuts to the US Postal Service — are threatening the right to vote in America, particularly for Black and brown Americans.