BOISE, Idaho — Rapper Kanye West qualified to be on Idaho’s presidential ballot as an independent on Aug. 25 by submitting petitions with 1,000 valid signatures of Idaho voters, but now his candidacy is facing a legal challenge. Late Wednesday, attorneys representing Idaho voters formally requested Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to declare West ineligible for the Idaho ballot, because under Idaho law, he’s not actually an independent – he’s registered to vote in Wyoming as a Republican.
The Idaho Press reports West certified on his declaration of candidacy in Idaho that he was “not affiliated with any political party,” and that he’s a Wyoming resident. But Wyoming records show his party registration there. An Arizona court recently barred West from that state’s presidential ballot for the same reason.
On Thursday, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said based on legal advice from the Idaho Attorney General’s office, West never should have been certified for the Idaho ballot, but he was, and Denney’s not sure if there’s still time to remove him. “We certified that and sent out the sample ballots,” Denney said. “And the printing could be taking place as we speak.”
“If we have not printed anything, we may reverse that decision because we have reason to,” Denney said. “But maybe as a practical matter, we can’t.”
Asked what would happen if an ineligible candidate appeared on Idaho’s presidential ballot, Denney said, “Well, if he were to win, it would be invalid. But I don’t suspect that that would be the case, even in Idaho.”
Later on Thursday, the Idaho Secretary of State's office said that despite being ineligible, Kanye West will stay on Idaho's presidential ballot unless a court orders him removed. Ballots are already being printed, Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock told my colleague, Post Register reporter Nathan Brown, this afternoon, in anticipation of upcoming deadlines. “The Legislature chose those deadlines for good reason, because there’s a federal law that requires that absentee ballots going out to citizens who are overseas or are in the military and are deployed out-of-state have to be mailed to them no later than Sept. 18,” Hancock said.
Therefore, Hancock said, West will be on Idaho’s ballot unless a court order forces the Secretary of State’s Office to change course.
Denney then told the Idaho Press Friday afternoon that his office won't remove Kanye West from Idaho's presidential ballot, despite the legal challenge. "We're going to let them sue," Denney said.
Denney received a letter from a Boise attorney representing the West campaign on Friday morning, Richard Stover of Eberle Berlin, citing a 2008 Idaho Supreme Court case and arguing that the Idaho Secretary of State has no authority to remove an independent candidate from the ballot, as long as the candidate is a self-described independent. "Mr. West timely filed the proper forms and was certified by your office," Stover wrote to Denney. "More importantly, there is nothing in Idaho Code indicating that the Secretary of State has the inherent or implied power or duty to determine the truthfulness of the statements made in a declaration of candidacy as an independent candidate."
In the 2008 Idaho Supreme Court case, Henry v. Ysursa, which involved the eligibility of self-proclaimed "real Republican" Rex Rammell to run for the Senate as an independent, the court found the Secretary of State had no power to question Rammell's claim to be an independent candidate. "The legislature has not given the Secretary of State that power or duty," then-Chief Justice Daniel Eismann found, writing for a unanimous court.
Denney said, "As long as they file their paperwork, what the court case says is basically I don't have the authority to take them off. Instead, he said, it's apparently "up to the individual" to be truthful in candidacy declarations.
"The problem we have is that we do already have quite a few ballots printed," Denney said. "I think we have a pretty good case of not taking him off. No. 1 is that Supreme Court cases says I don't have authority. Of course, that doesn't mean they can't change their mind."
"So we're not going to do anything," Denney said. "With ballots already printed, there's going to be a cost to replace those."
"We would hope things just go the way it is," he said, "but if a court orders us to, we'll do some reprinting, I guess."
The Idaho Press reports on Friday afternoon attorneys for the Idaho Democratic Party and two registered Idaho voters have filed suit in 4th District Court against Denney and West about the eligibility issue.
"This case is about upholding the integrity of our elections," said attorney Carl Withroe. "A candidate who is not eligible for the ballot appearing on some or all of the ballots Idaho voters were use this November will cause confusion, and that is not helpful."
Asked about a 2008 Idaho Supreme Court case that found that then-Secretary of State Ben Ysursa had no authority to remove independent candidate for Senate Rex Rammell from the ballot -- which attorneys for the West campaign have cited in urging Denney to take no action to remove West from the ballot -- Withroe said, "We don’t think it applies in this case."
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring West's removal from the Idaho ballot and a court declaration that he is ineligible. In the complaint, the attorneys argue on behalf of the Idaho Democratic Party, "The party has an interest in the integrity of Idaho elections. It is concerned that a candidate on the ballot who is not eligible to be on the ballot will almost certainly cause confusion among voters for the office of president. ... The Idaho Democratic Party is also concerned that votes for an ineligible candidate will dilute the voting power of Democratic voters, which will result in votes being effectively wasted, effectively disenfranchising voters."
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