He's filed the paperwork necessary to appear on the ballot in multiple states, though his path to victory is exceedingly narrow and his behavior has concerned his family

By Sean Neumann
Updated August 10, 2020 12:03 PM
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In the month-plus since Kanye West announced his last-minute presidential campaign, much remains unclear about the musician’s political plans while he has been dealing with turmoil in his family after a series of alarming statements.

At the same time that his campaign has been filing for his name to appear on the ballot in at least four states, his wife, Kim Kardashian West, asked the public for “compassion” amid concerning behavior the family linked to Kanye's bipolar disorder.

"As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand," Kim, 39, said in a statement on social media last month.

A source told PEOPLE in July that Kanye was “struggling again,” and he and Kim were later seen having an emotional reunion at their ranch in Cody, Wyoming — days after he publicly pleaded for her forgiveness for sharing intimate family details at a campaign event in South Carolina.

More recently, they vacationed with their kids and a source said he and Kim "both seem much happier."

Despite his personal ups and downs, Kanye's campaign keeps pushing forward.

(How seriously he will pursue it into the fall remains an open question: He's suggested on Twitter he may instead run in 2024, though he later boasted of being able to beat Joe Biden via write-in ballots. One recent poll put his voter support at 2 percent.)

The Yeezus rapper held his one campaign rally in South Carolina on July 19 — before failing to file paperwork to get his name on that state’s ballot — and the 43-year-old has made headlines for a number of remarks at that rally and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, his team has quietly pressed forward, starting on July 15.

Kanye West
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

That's when Kanye paid a $35,000 fee to get his name on the Oklahoma ballot as an independent, and his campaign took steps in subsequent weeks to gather all of the required signatures to qualify in other states.

It seems he has not put together the more typical campaign machinery of other candidates, though: While there have been mounting reports he has been assisted by Republican aides, his official political team remains unclear as do his future campaign events, if any.

(But he does have a hashtag: #2020VISION.)

Last month, Kanye gave a lengthy and wide-ranging interview to Forbes about his policies running under the "Birthday Party."

Among his positions was wanting to organize the White House like a fictional country from Black Panther, wanting to "end police brutality" and to encourage prayer in school and disdaining the death penalty and vaccination.

Here’s what else you need to know about Kanye's 2020 campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Kanye West speaks to a crowd at a campaign rally in South Carolina on July 19.
MEGA

Is the campaign ... real?

Yes. As murky as Kanye's bid has been thus far, he has filed the paperwork for his name to officially appear as an independent on multiple states' ballots in November, alongside presumptive Democratic nominee Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump.

According to local officials and other news reports, Kanye filed to appear in at least 10 states, though not all of those submissions have been accepted yet and some of his filings were withdrawn or dismissed after being reviewed by election officials.

To date, the musician's campaign has successfully made it onto Vermont's ballot, in addition to Oklahoma and Colorado — where he paid a $1,000 fee to get on the ballot, PEOPLE has confirmed.

Kanye's petition requests are pending in six other states: Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

His campaign withdrew its filing in New Jersey following an objection, and his chances in Illinois appear to be slim following reports that his petition did not have the amount of valid signatures required.

Sean Tenner, a local Chicago committeeperson filed an objection against West's signature petition and told local WTTW that the candidate's ballot request did not have enough valid signatures, when the petition was reviewed by a state hearing officer.

An Illinois election official tells PEOPLE the state won't make an official decision about West's filing until August 21. West faces three objections in Illinois over his filing.

He has missed the filing deadline in more than 10 other states already, including California, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Even if he qualifies to be on the ballot in other states, he will be unable to win the presidency because he couldn't obtain the 270 electoral votes.

The campaign's late start isn’t Kanye's only hurdle.

From left: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West in March
Marc Piasecki/WireImage

The problems he faces with his signatures

Even after Kanye filed paperwork to appear on various state ballots, the signatures he gathered had been challenged in places like Illinois and New Jersey.

Illinois, similar to some other states like Missouri, allows state residents to protest a candidate’s signature filings to prove they are legitimate. Kanye's campaign needed to confirm it gathered 2,500 legitimate signatures, as three objections were filed against his petition — arguing that the signatures his campaign were invalid.

“If someone did challenge him, I think he would be off the ballot,” election attorney Pericles Abbasi, who has gone through Illinois' petition review process “dozens and dozens” of times with local candidates, previously told PEOPLE.

Illinois election officers are currently reviewing the paperwork Kanye's campaign submitted to check if the signatures were from valid voters.

Though Kanye initially filed more than the required amount, Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich previously told PEOPLE that his campaign didn’t leave much room for error.

To be safe, Dietrich said most candidates submit signature sheets with well over the amount required — sometimes more than double the amount, in fact — but Kanye only submitted roughly 700 signatures above the 2,500 threshold.

Tenner, one of the objectors, told WTTW that a hearing officer found West had only filed 1,200 valid signatures, which would leave him short of the required amount.

In New Jersey, the state asked independent candidates this year for 800 signatures, and Kanye's campaign filed just 1,327. At least one person soon objected before the campaign withdrew its filings and told the state it was no longer pursuing a place on the ballot.

In Missouri, however, residents can still challenge Kanye's filings in court before the state finalizes its general election ballot on Aug. 25.

But if no challenge is mounted, Missouri Secretary of State spokeswoman Maura Browning says “it’s pretty simple” — Kanye's name will be on the ballot.

Kanye West in September 2016
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

What are Kanye’s political goals?

With Kanye's name appearing on some state’s ballots this November, voters there might be wondering what his positions are.

The short answer: It isn't always clear.

The rapper and designer somewhat explained his stances in his interview with Forbes in July, where he sounded off about Vice President Biden, President Trump, the death penalty and other topics.

"I have to say with all humility that as a man, I don’t have all of the pieces in the puzzle," he told the magazine. "As I speak to you for what a political campaign — a political walk, as I told you, because I’m not running, I’m walking. I'm not running, we the people are walking. We’re not running anymore, we’re not running, we’re not excited — we are energized."

"God just gave me the clarity and said it’s time," Kanye told Forbes of why he chose to run. "You know I was out there, ended up in the hospital, people were calling me crazy. I'm not crazy."

After speaking with Kanye for “four rambling hours,” Forbes' Randall Lane reported: “He has no campaign apparatus of any kind.”

Kanye's listed campaign website, according to his filings, only recently came online.  Quoting various Bible verses, it outlines 10 goals for "Creating a Culture of Life."

His platform mixes several influences, according to his website, including Christian and fiscal conservatism along with a focus on the arts and on criminal justice reform as well as a call to avoid "foreign quagmires that do not advance our national interest."

Kanye told Forbes his running mate would be Michelle Tidball, a 57-year-old Christian preacher whom the New Yorker reports works out of a dentist's office near Kanye's Wyoming ranch and says she can talk to God.

Tidball, like the rest of Kanye's aides, have not made public comments about his campaign.

In his Forbes interview, Kanye denied his presidential bid was an effort to promote his new album, which he has also been touting on social media.

He said he no longer backs Trump — “I am taking the red hat off, with this interview" —  and he described that White House he hopes to run would be based on “the framework of Wakanda” from the 2018 Marvel movie Black Panther.

From left: Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West in May 2016.
Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic

His Family's Concerns and Mounting Strain

Kanye's improbable push to get on the presidential ballot comes as his loved ones have expressed concern about his health while also asking for understanding.

"I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions," Kim wrote in her lengthy statement on July 22.

"He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder,” she added. “Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions."

One insider previously told PEOPLE that Kim was making a point to protect their kids — daughters North, 7, and Chicago, 2½, and sons Saint, 4½, and Psalm, 14 months — from their father's recent public outbursts as multiple sources confirmed that Kim and Kanye had been considering divorce for some time.

"She is very emotional about everything and also exhausted. She feels very hurt by Kanye," another source told PEOPLE of Kim earlier this week. "She has tried to reach him multiple times, and he just ignores her."

A source close to Kanye said last week that some of his close friends had flown to Wyoming to be at his side and ensure he was getting the help and support he needed.

During her Wyoming visit, Kim "urged" Kanye to abandon his campaign and "focus on his mental health instead," a source said.

At roughly the same time that he and Kim spoke face-to-face for the first time in weeks, Kanye's team had went forward with filing his 2020 paperwork in Missouri and New Jersey.

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.