Kanye West has been publicly mulling a Presidential candidacy for years now. Celebrity gossip Twitter seems to take the proclamations more seriously than the political establishment, but, if anything, recent years have proven that you don’t necessarily need the establishment’s immediate approval anymore. However, you do still need to take the laws and processes that govern elections seriously if you want to win one. President Trump’s campaign may have been “untraditional” (to say the least) in many ways, but the man still managed to go through the traditional process, for what that’s worth..
West, the man who once put out his album The Life of Pablo only to make alterations to it later, announced his actual candidacy in a Tweet this weekend, leading to some serious handwringing over whether he could somehow affect the results of the upcoming election. Hardly anyone thinks he could be the next President of the United States, but some may fear he could become the next Ralph Nader.
Though, running for President requires more than a Tweet. For one, you have to file with the FEC, which West has yet to do. You also have to qualify to get your name printed on the actual ballots, one way or another. The poli sci crowd call it “ballot access.”
Often, alternative candidates like Nader, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson run as the nominee of one of the major third parties, which have various levels of ballot access across the country built-in. Those parties, however, have all already chosen their candidate for the year.
That would leave West to run as a true independent. It’s not impossible. Ross Perot ran as a true independent with his name on the ballot in all 50 states back in 1992. More recently, Evan McMullen, who emerged as a popular Trump-alternative for right-leaning independent voters and “never Trump” Republicans, managed to get his name on the ballot in 11 states in 2016.
Unfortunately for the fledgling Ye 2020 effort, the deadline for an independent candidate to register to appear on the ballot come November has already passed in Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Texas. Together, those states represent 102 out of the 538 votes in the electoral college. Missing out major prizes like Texas (whose 38 electoral votes are the second most in the nation, and notably is inching ever closer to possible “swing state” status) and New York (which has 29 votes, tied with Florida for the third most) already puts a West candidacy at a major disadvantage.
Common sense would dictate the easiest path forward would be at least securing wins in the country’s two other biggest Electoral College prizes: California and Florida. Though, achieving ballot access there won’t be easy for West either.
In Florida, an independent Presidential candidate must secure the signatures of 1 percent of all registered voters in the state. That’s 132,781 total people, but campaigns typically have to secure more signatures as many can be thrown out during the verification process. It’s not an impossible task, and several Florida politicians actually prefer to qualify via signature. However, it usually takes time and either dedicated volunteers or paid staff. Unfortunately for West, the deadline is in just nine days: July 15th. So, lets rate West’s possibility of achieving the feat as next-to-impossible, which means he’s out another possible 29 electoral votes. That’s also notable, as Florida may reassume its position as the deciding swing state this year after stepping out of the horse race limelight on election night 2016.
Similar qualifying deadlines are fast approaching in other states as well. According to Ballotpedia, Nevada’s deadline is on the 10th, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Delaware’s are also on the 15th, and Michigan’s is on the 16th. So unless West acts fast, that’s now a total of 172 electoral votes that are out of reach in the next 10 days.
The deadline would pass ballot in states representing a total 207 electoral votes would pass by the end of July. By August 5th, he’d have missed out on qualifying for ballot access in state representing 278 electoral votes. 270 electoral votes is the magic number you need to win. You see the problem.
Just for good measure, the deadline for California ballot access (and its 55 electoral) votes is the next day on August 6th. Exactly a month from now.
So unless West somehow manages to pull off the greatest feat of electoral organizing the country has ever seen in 31 days, his candidacy is already doomed.
West could technically just tell people to write-in his name, but even then, some states require him to officially register as a write-in candidate to have those votes counted. Nine states don’t even count write-in votes for President at all.
Basically, his campaign’s chances of have any claim to legitimacy are practically over before he even began. That wouldn’t stop anyone from writing-in his name otherwise. But, for some perspective, 67,326 people voted for Roseanne Barr back in 2012, and that didn’t seem to matter much.