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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Kanye Kept Off?

Just less than two weeks after complaints were filed in Wisconsin against the Kanye Con Job – an effort led by Republican operatives to place music mogul Kayne West on presidential ballots across the country – the Wisconsin Elections Commission staff recommended West be denied ballot access.

The six-member commission comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans will vote on the recommendation later today at 3:00 p.m. CT. Open to the public, anyone can join the commission Zoom conference by following this link:

Every person concerned about the methodical undermining of our electoral process should tune in and watch. It is literally our democracy on trial.

Sadly, the balance hangs on a knife’s edge. In a lengthy analysis, the commission staff pinned its entire recommendation on West’s failure to timely file his nomination papers. The staff found the remaining claims by and large failed to establish “clear and convincing evidence” that the signatures should be rejected. Yes, they agreed the signatures of Mickey Mouse, Bernie Sanders and even Kayne West himself should be invalidated, but they did not accept the broader challenges to deceptive practices by nomination paper circulators.

That means everything may rely on whether the commission decides to boot West because his attorney putzed around in the car too long.

The good news is that the staff made a thorough and devastating argument that West’s campaign failed to file his nomination papers on time. They began by rejecting the argument that the deadline extended from 5:00 p.m. through 5:00:59 p.m., calling West’s argument “a tortured interpretation” that runs counter to a “more common and common sense reading” that any filing after 5:00 p.m. sharp should be rejected.

The staff then launched into an avalanche of proof that West’s people walked in late. Not only did their attorney admit to walking into the building at 5:00:14 p.m., but multiple people, including a reporter, a Democratic operative and a commission staff member, were all keeping careful track as the clock ticked down.

Even if West’s operatives were in the building seconds after 5:00 p.m., they still failed to present the files before 5:01 p.m. Staff labeled it “virtually impossible” to travel from the front door to the third floor office and give possession to the clerk “in the approximate 46 seconds that would have been needed to present the papers for filing by 5:01.” And even then, West’s staffers did not hand over the papers until several minutes later because they failed to properly organize them beforehand.

The staff had little sympathy for West’s claim that the people charged to deliver the signatures were unfairly detained from arriving on time. In a stinging rebuke, the staff suggested accepting that argument would lead to “future candidates claiming they were late because of a high number of red traffic signals … an unexpected detour because of road construction … a slow or maximum capacity elevator … or the plan to park in front of the building had to be modified because all available spots were filled …”

In the end, the staff concluded that candidates “traditionally do not wait to file nomination papers where documentation of seconds is necessitated” and reminding the commission members that Wisconsin law mandates that each “candidate for public office has the responsibility to assure that his or her nomination papers are prepared, circulated, signed, and filed in compliance with statutory and other legal requirements.”

The staff has armed the Wisconsin Election Commission with everything it needs to deny West ballot access due to an untimely filing. If the commission does not, they would need to venture into the merits of the individual signature challenges. I assume that would be akin to walking into the “fire tornadoes” that ripped through California a few days ago.

As I read Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 5.05(1e)), it would take a two-thirds vote of the commission to grant West access to the ballot. That means at least one Democratic commission member would need to join with all three Republicans to put him there. I have a hard time seeing that, even during the “closed session” scheduled for the meeting.

The Wisconsin Election Commission can protect its voters from the Kayne Con Job. They should take advantage of the opportunity and deny West ballot access.

Mario Nicolais is an election law attorney working with The Lincoln Project, a group of conservatives and Republicans dedicated to beating Donald Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq

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