Arizona Supreme Court rules Kanye West can’t be on ballot




Kanye West performing at a 2013 concert. Photo by Peter Hutchins | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Arizona Supreme Court has barred Kanye West from the general election ballot, upholding a lower court ruling that he can’t run for president as an independent.

Justices Clint Bolick, John Lopez, Bill Montgomery and Ann Timmer ruled on Tuesday that the rap superstar didn’t follow a state law requiring candidates to file a statement of interest with election officials. Under the 2019 law, any signatures a candidate collects prior to filing that statement are invalid.

Tuesday is the deadline for election officials to send finalized ballots for the Nov. 3 election to their printers.

“We are grateful that the Court enforced the law as written to prevent a candidate who didn’t follow Arizona’s election laws from getting on the ballot at the last minute,” attorneys for plaintiff Rasean Clayton said in an emailed statement.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy ruled Sept. 3 that West couldn’t be on the Arizona ballot as an independent candidate for president because he’s registered as a Republican in Wyoming and because his 11 electors didn’t file statements of interest with the Secretary of State’s Office. The Supreme Court did not address whether a Republican could legally run as an independent in its two-page decision on Tuesday, but backed McCoy’s ruling on West’s electors.

A full opinion will be forthcoming.

West’s campaign had argued that it is exempt from the statement of interest law. The statute explicitly excludes candidates for president and vice president of the United States, but is silent on the issue of electors. Ten of West’s 11 electors were registered as Republicans at the time they agreed to be his electors in Arizona, the plaintiff’s attorneys argued.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the result. We read the law differently than the court did. But they get to say what the law is. We don’t,” Tim Berg, an attorney representing the West campaign, told the Arizona Mirror.

West, formerly a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump, has attempted to get his name on the ballot in a number of states. Republican operatives have assisted his campaign nationwide, including in Arizona, and many Democrats believe the purpose of his campaign is to siphon votes from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

West has qualified for the ballot in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, while missing the filing deadlines or being barred from the ballot in the remaining states. Because he hasn’t qualified for the ballot in enough states, it is impossible for West to get the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency.

Independent presidential candidates need to collect about 39,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot in Arizona. West last week filed nearly 58,000 signatures with the Secretary of State’s Office. 

West’s campaign also attempted to submit an unknown number of supplemental signatures on Friday, the deadline for independent presidential candidates to submit their nominating petitions. But Secretary of State Katie Hobbs rejected them, citing McCoy’s ruling, which barred election officials from putting his name on the ballot or accepting additional signatures from his campaign. 

After a group of people from the West campaign went to the Secretary of State’s Office demanding that Hobbs accept the extra signatures — they ultimately left two boxes of petitions in the lobby — state Elections Director Bo Dul emailed campaign attorney Timothy La Sota, urging him to “Please spare us any further publicity stunts.”

Republican legislators passed the statement of interest law in 2019. It was intended to prevent candidates from stealthily jumping into a race by collecting signatures online without creating a campaign committee, which is traditionally how others would know someone is running for an office. 

In 2018, Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, announced that he was ending his re-election bid after the deadline had passed to qualify for the ballot. That left Tyler Pace, who had collected signatures online but hadn’t filed a campaign committee, as the lone GOP Senate candidate in the heavily Republican district.

Berg said it’s interesting that the Supreme Court appeared to focus on the statement of interest law rather than the voter registration issue, when the latter was the primary focus in trial court arguments.

But until the court issues its opinion, it’s impossible to say how much of a role each law played in the justices’ decision.

“You don’t know until you read the opinion. All you know from this is Mr. West isn’t going to be on the ballot in Arizona,” Berg said.