The deadline for an Independent candidate to file nomination papers to be on the 2020 presidential ballot in the crucial battleground state of Wisconsin was 5 p.m. on August 4, 2020. A representative for Kanye West – identified by Vice as a GOP-connected lawyer – made it through the door in the nick of time. Or did she?
Did West miss the 5 p.m. filing deadline?
Cameron Joseph, a senior reporter for Vice News, identified the woman filing the papers as Lane Ruhland, a “top WIGOP election lawyer who was former general counsel for the state party.” Bob Palmer, a local television photojournalist, captured video of Ruhland walking through the door of the building that houses the Wisconsin Election Commission, West papers in hand. “The timecode on my camera is one minute 2 seconds off the time on my phone. The Kanye representitive (sic) then hit the doorway at 5:00:18,” he wrote on Twitter. To reiterate: That’s 18 seconds after 5 p.m., according to Palmer.
Matt Smith, a reporter with WISN-12, a Milwaukee television station, wrote on Twitter, “‘No comment’ as woman enters election commission building just after 5p in Madison to drop off signatures for Kanye West.” He also reported that West’s petition to get on the ballot is pending and will be reviewed by Election Commission staff members “in the coming days” to see if he qualified.
Smith also wrote: “They called before 5p to alert election officials. (Building is locked and shut down because of COVID. Someone had to come let them in).” WISN-12 reported on its website: “Ruhland arrived just before 5 p.m. She first called the election commission’s office since it is closed because of COVID-19. Ruhland walked through the doors seconds after 5 p.m., the deadline for filing.” Smith’s video appears to show Ruhland opening the door on her own.
Heavy reached out to the spokesperson for the Wisconsin Election Commission and asked whether the papers were filed on time; whether the Palmer video puts them into question; and whether it’s true the campaign called in advance and whether that matters. In addition, Heavy asked whether the COVID-19 angle cited by Smith comes into play. Heavy has also reached out to Ruhland to ask the same questions.
Reid Magney, the spokesman for the Wisconsin Election Commission responded to the above questions by sending Heavy copies of West’s nomination papers. You can see them here.
Since it appeared there might be a blurry, almost illegible time and date stamp in the top corner of the documents, Heavy asked Magney what it says and the relevance of the documents to the questions above, including whether West’s papers were filed on time. He responded:
I don’t know what the datestamp says. I know a lot of people have questions about it.
WEC staff will provide the Commission members with a detailed timeline surrounding the filing of the nomination papers as part of its report on ballot access for a future meeting. It will be up to the Commission to decide whether the deadline was met.
The stakes are high; Trump won Wisconsin in 2016, a key battleground state, by the slimmest of margins. He had 1,405,284 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 1,382,536, according to WEC. However, that time around there were a couple of relatively strong third-party candidates on the ticket. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 106,674, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein received 31,072 votes in Wisconsin in 2016. Some people believe that West, who has been photographed in a MAGA hat and praised Donald Trump, may be trying to play spoiler to help the president. In 2018, Kanye tweeted of Trump: “You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.”
However, the first presidential poll that asked voters about West found that he drew from Trump’s numbers. The New York Times reported on August 4 that “at least four people who have been active in Republican politics are linked to Kanye West’s attempt to get on the presidential ballot this year.” The Times noted, though, that West has also filed in some states that are solidly in the red camp already.
The communications director for Democratic Governor Tony Evers, Melissa Baldauff, tweeted of Ruhland, “Was this person general counsel when @wisgop ran fake Dems in the senate recall elections? For the voter roll purge? When they rigged the maps? Because honestly it’s the least surprising thing in the world that WI Republicans want to screw around with our elections.”
Diana Gorecki, a Milwaukee caregiver, told Heavy she signed the West petition because she believes “he’s an American citizen. He’s kind of out there, but he has a right to go through the process.”
She said that a man who didn’t identify himself called her and asked whether she was aware she was signing a petition for West to be added to the ballot in Wisconsin. “I figured I would help him out to get it done to get on the ballot,” she said. “I’ve been joking to my friends that we need to have more than one billionaire and number two diversity. We have two old men running for president in two parties. I personally am an independent voter.”
She said she will probably vote for Donald Trump because she likes “that he’s a businessman, and he got the economy rolling. My husband finally got a raise after many years of not getting one under the Trump policies. I like a lot of things he’s done to help small businesses.” She said her husband works as a senior network engineer for a trucking company.
She said it’s possible she might vote for West, though. “If I did it, it would be for the same reason when I was 18 in college that I voted for Ross Perot. I would understand in voting for Kanye if I do that he’s not going to win.” She said it would be a statement against the two-party system and “how extreme things are going on either side.”
Gorecki said she was approached to sign West’s nomination papers at a grocery store in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee. A woman said she was there on behalf of Kanye West and asked Gorecki if she wanted to sign to get him on the ballot in Wisconsin.
Asked if she believes West is on the ballot to help Trump, she said, “It’s possible, but Kanye kind of lives in his own world. I remember him saying once about Trump that he loved his dragon energy. He did break away from Trump. I’m trying to figure out everything.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Wisconsin Election Commission Deadline Was 5 p.m. on August 4
A Wisconsin Election Commission ballot access memo says:
Independent Candidates for President and Vice President circulate and file nomination papers (EL-167). The first day for circulating nomination papers is July 1, 2020, and the deadline for filing with the Wisconsin Election Commission is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Wis. Stat. § 8.20(8)(am). The nomination papers must contain at least 2,000 and no more than 4,000 signatures of Wisconsin electors. In addition to filing nomination papers, an independent candidate is required to file a Declaration of Candidacy (EL-162) with the Wisconsin Election Commission no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Wis. Stats. §§ 8.20(8)(am), 8.21. Independent candidates appear on the November General Election ballot only.
You can read the memo in full here.
People weighed in on Twitter under Palmer’s thread. “There must be some sort of exemption for situations like a natural disaster or some other act of God, or being locked out of the building when you’re there in time, that kind of thing. Otherwise partisan employees could just lock a building to prevent filing by opposing party,” wrote one.
“So she’s late,” wrote another.
“Apparently they did let them into the building,” a third person noted.
Ruhland Helped the Republican National Committee With the 2016 Presidential Election Recount & Developed an Election Integrity Program for Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican
Ruhland is senior counsel at a Madison law firm, Husch Blackwell. Her website bio says,
She advises professional associations and clubs, corporations and political campaigns, including presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, state Supreme Court candidates and political action committees (PACs). Clients rely on her guidance for issues of political giving, campaign finance, election law and legislative matters. Her experience includes serving on the team that represented the Republican National Committee (RNC) in the 2016 presidential election recount in Wisconsin. Lane also developed a comprehensive election integrity program for the state of Wisconsin during Governor Scott Walker’s 2014 re-election campaign, and she has assisted in drafting more than 100 legislative proposals.
Her bio says: “As Election Day Operations Director for Republican Party of Wisconsin, advised on campaign finance compliance.”
Her LinkedIn page says she acted as legal counsel for the Republican Party of Wisconsin from April 2014 through January 2015 and was a policy advisor for Republican state Senator Jerry Petrowski. She was a legal intern and policy analyst in the Office of Governor Scott Walker. She also worked as a Wisconsin Election Day Operations Law Clerk for Romney for President. She previously worked as director of Environmental and Energy Policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and as deputy chief of staff for the former Republican Attorney General.