The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Thursday to keep Kanye West off the general election presidential ballot after determining the hip hop star had filed late, a move that keeps him from potentially competing in a key battleground state in November.
The 5-1 vote came after the commission’s staff released a report Tuesday concluding that West and his running mate, Michelle Tidball, had not filed nomination papers on time, by 5 p.m. on Aug. 4.
The commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats, rejected the argument by West’s attorney, Michael Curran, that the campaign had until 5:01 p.m. to file.
Wisconsin state law states that candidates must file nomination papers “not later” than 5 p.m. Jeffrey Mandell, an attorney for Wisconsin’s Democratic Party, said the evidence is clear that West’s team filed the papers late and “they cannot be allowed.”
“Five o’clock is five o’clock,” Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson said. “Maybe I’m just common sense and not a lawyer.”
Republican Robert Spindell was the only commissioner to vote in favor of West, arguing that the commission should give West the opportunity.
The commission also voted 6-0 to grant ballot access to the Libertarian presidential ticket but tied 3-3 on whether the Green Party should have it, which is now expected to be settled in court.
Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said in a statement that Wisconsin Democrats had “successfully fought to deny ballot access to an African American because he was seconds late with his paperwork.”
“The left wants to clear any liberal competition for Democrats, while ensuring a Libertarian is on the ballot to siphon votes from Republicans,” Jefferson said. “Democrats are only interested in voter enfranchisement if they believe they will benefit. If they don’t benefit, they don’t care.”
Libertarian Gary Johnson received 106,674 votes in 2016 in Wisconsin, according to CNN’s results.
Ann Jacobs, the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and a Democrat, said she does not see any “hypocrisy” in the commission’s decision not to grant ballot access to West.
“I do not think it’s unreasonable to expect people who are seeking higher office to do something as simple as walk through a door before 5 o’clock at night, which is the deadline,” Jacobs told reporters.
Black Democratic officials and progressive activists in Wisconsin had reacted largely with disgust to West’s efforts in what is expected to be among the most crucial swing states in November’s election. But some expressed trepidation that – if the presidential race is a nail-biter there – West earning even a fraction of the 188,000 votes that went to third-party or independent candidates in the state four years ago could become a significant factor.
Republican operatives, some with ties to President Donald Trump, have helped West try to get on presidential general election ballots in states from Vermont to Arkansas. Some of the states where West has filed are reviewing his petitions.
The effort is raising questions about whether Republicans are pushing for the rapper’s addition to the ballot as a way to potentially siphon voters from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The effort has been effectively green-lit by Trump, who said earlier this month that he had “nothing to do” with West qualifying for states’ ballots but that the rapper has “got a good heart, a very good heart. And I like Kanye very much.”
Trump won Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point in 2016.
The Republican strategy seizes on a perceived lack of support for Biden among young Black voters, despite the fact that Biden largely won the Democratic primary because of his deep support among Black voters.
Polling shows that Biden enjoys a massive lead with Black voters – an analysis of 10 polls from CNN’s Harry Enten in July found he leads among Black voters, 83% to 8%.
But Biden’s support among Black adults is not monolithic and is far stronger with older Black adults. A recent Washington Post poll found that 87% of Black seniors said the former vice president is “sympathetic to the problems of Black people in America,” while that figure drops to 66% with adults under 40.
West’s candidacy is a clear attempt to play into that dichotomy – mimicking the Trump campaign’s twofold strategy to both court younger Black men at the same time that his campaign attempts to suppress support for Biden.
This story has been updated with comments from the Wisconsin Republican Party executive director and the Wisconsin Elections Commission chair.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Eric Bradner and Dan Merica contributed to this report.