Everything We Know About the Status of Kanye West's Unlikely 2020 Campaign
Despite his personal ups and downs, his impossible campaign keeps pushing forward
In the three-plus months 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 this summer — as it has become clear he cannot actually be elected to the White House because he failed to qualify in enough states.
At the same time that his campaign has filed paperwork to ensure his name does appear on the ballot in at least 12 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 in July.
A source told PEOPLE at the time 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. Sources also told PEOPLE that the couple had been on the road to a possible divorce.
More recently, they vacationed with their kids and a source said he and Kim "both seem much happier."
Beyond initially retweeting Kanye's July 4 announcement about his campaign, Kim has not publicly discussed her husband's campaign. Neither has most of his family, other than Kourtney Kardashian.
Despite his personal ups and downs, Kanye's campaign keeps pushing forward. In recent days, he has released two ads — his first official advertising — though it's unclear where the ads have been displayed. (His reps and his campaign team have repeatedly declined to answer questions about his operation or strategy.)
Kanye currently only has the opportunity to win up to 84 electoral votes in the 12 states where he will appear on the ballot: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Utah.
A candidate needs to win at least 270 votes in the Electoral College to win a presidential election.
It has not always been clear how seriously Kanye plans to pursue his presidential bid: He has suggested on Twitter he may instead run in 2024, though he later boasted of being able to beat Joe Biden via write-in ballots and he has urged his supporters to write in his name on ballots if he's not an option otherwise.
One poll put his voter support at 2 percent.
The Yeezus rapper held his one major 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.
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.
In some states, campaigns only need to pay fees to get a candidate's name on the ballot.
In Colorado, for example, PEOPLE confirmed that his campaign paid a $1,000 fee to get his name on the ballot. In Louisiana, he only had to pay $500 to get his name on the ballot, where The Washington Post reports the campaign didn't have to submit any voter signatures.
In other states, however, campaigns are required to prove support by submitting a certain amount of signatures from registered voters through petitions.
It seems Kanye 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 operatives, his official political team remains unclear as do his future campaign events, if any. (But he does have a hashtag: #2020VISION.)
In July, 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.
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 Biden, the Democratic nominee, and incumbent President Donald Trump.
According to local officials and other news reports, Kanye filed to appear in at least 21 states, though many of those submissions were unsuccessful, including being withdrawn or rejected after being reviewed by officials.
In Missouri, for example, Kanye needed to file 10,000 signatures from registered voters to show he had support. However, local Secretary of State John Ashcroft informed his campaign on Aug. 25 that after review, the state found his campaign only submitted 6,557 valid signatures, well short of the benchmark.
"Therefore, you do not qualify to have your name placed on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot," Ashcroft wrote in a letter to Kanye.
The musician's submission was rejected by Ohio officials after "the West nominating petition and declaration of candidacy failed to meet the necessary threshold for certification," according to a press release.
His campaign also ran into roadblocks over the number of valid signatures it submitted in states like Illinois and New Jersey.
Sean Tenner, a local Chicago committeeperson filed an objection against Kanye's signature petition and told local TV station WTTW that the candidate's ballot request did not have enough valid signatures, after the petition was reviewed by a state hearing officer.
In a handful of instances, the issue has been the campaign's failure to gather enough signatures from voters or to file the proper paperwork. At other times, local citizens have stood up to stop Kanye's campaign from progressing in the state.
The problems he faces with his signatures
Even after Kanye filed paperwork to appear on various state ballots, the signatures he gathered were challenged in some states.
Illinois, similar to some other states like Missouri, allows residents to protest a candidate’s signature filings to prove they are legitimate. There, Kanye's campaign needed to confirm it gathered 2,500 legitimate signatures, however the three objections that were filed against his petition argued many of the signatures his campaign provided 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 officials ultimately denied his petition after finding Kanye's campaign did not file enough valid signatures. The review process came after locals put up a challenge to his petition.
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 Politico afterwards that Kanye's comments that Harriet Tubman “never actually freed the slaves" during his South Carolina rally were "insulting," which is why his Democratic group of objectors sought to halt the push to appear on the state's ballot.
In New Jersey, the state asked independent candidates this year for 800 signatures, and Kanye's campaign filed just 1,327. After at least one person objected, the campaign withdrew its filings and told the state it was no longer pursuing a place on the ballot.
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, came online this summer. 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."
In one of his campaign ads, he said that "we as a people will revive our nation's commitment to faith. ... We are not only a beacon to the world but we should be servants to each other."
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.
Although he said he no longer backs Trump — “I am taking the red hat off, with this interview" — there have been reports that a growing number of Republicans have made efforts to help West get his name on ballots across the country, raising concern among critics that West is running a spoiler campaign aimed at siphoning votes from Biden and helping Trump win the election.
Jared Kushner, a White House senior advisor and Trump's son-in-law, met with Kanye in Colorado, though the Trump campaign has continued to deny involvement in helping Kanye's bid
His Family's Concerns and Mounting Strain
Kanye's impossible 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," wife 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 previously told PEOPLE 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 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.