Kanye West's Unlikely Presidential Campaign Faces New Challenges in Illinois: 'I Don’t Think He’s Ready'
“If someone did challenge him, I think he would be off the ballot,” one election attorney tells PEOPLE
Starting last week, West — who announced his presidential bid as an independent candidate on Twitter on the Fourth of July — began filing to get his name on the ballot in several states. So far West has been successful in getting on the Oklahoma ballot for the November election, after he paid a $35,000 fee.
But in other states, the 43-year-old rapper and designer's campaign has experienced difficulty in gathering enough signatures from voters supporting his 2020 run — and he may soon face more obstacles. (It also remains an open question how seriously he will pursue a campaign. He suggested in a Tuesday night tweet that he may look to run again in 2024.)
His latest hurdle comes in Illinois.
On Monday, he successfully submitted the 2,500 required signatures to get on the ballot there. However, signatures on a candidate's petition in the state can be challenged — in Illinois and elsewhere in the U.S., reflecting one of the significant issues standing between West and a nationwide run as an independent.
Some local Illinois politicians, election lawyers and residents tell PEOPLE they've started to review West's paperwork this week and will look to challenge the validity of the signatures by the Monday deadline.
“If someone did challenge him, I think he would be off the ballot,” says election attorney Pericles Abbasi, who has gone through the state’s petition review process “dozens and dozens” of times with local candidates.
Abbasi says his initial count from West's filing shows the campaign gathered just under 3,200 signatures. That's more than the 2,500 required, but less than what is typically needed to withstand a challenge, according to Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich.
“It’s the general practice among most candidates that they submit a number of signatures far greater than the minimum,” Dietrich explains. “If an independent candidate for president had filed 10,000 signatures, that would be a much more daunting challenge for an objector.”
“Here,” Dietrich added, “you don’t have a tremendous number of signatures above the minimum.”
West already failed to submit all of the required signatures he needed in Florida (132,000 signatures) or in South Carolina (10,000) — despite hosting a hourlong campaign event there on Sunday — and so he won't appear on either state's general election ballot in November.
He likewise has missed the cutoff for other large states like Michigan and Texas. The majority of deadlines for the rest of the states are in August.
Illinois is so far the only significant state where West, who grew up in Chicago, has filed. Any Illinois resident can make an objection to his filing, however, though candidates are often challenged by their political opponents.
If an objection is filed by Monday's deadline, the election board spokesman tells PEOPLE a review process will take place between three representatives: one for the challenger, another from West's campaign and a state officer.
After the signatures are reviewed and checked against Illinois' voter registration database, an eight-person election board would decide whether to approve West's petition.
Terrell Barnes, a library trustee with the Roselle Public Library District in Illinois, asked the state for copies of West's filings from the state on Wednesday and tells PEOPLE he plans to file an objection to West's petition by Monday’s deadline.
“I’m a concerned citizen in part,” says Barnes, 44, pointing to West's recent controversial public statements, which West's family has linked to his bipolar disorder.
“I don’t think he’s ready to be president,” Barnes says.
He says he's reached out to election attorneys about filing his challenge and has already identified certain addresses listed on the hopeful candidate's petition that he says do not exist. Barnes' guess is that the campaign's filing is incomplete.
Two other Illinois residents with histories of running for local elections — Larry Gilman, of New Lenox, and John Keating, of Springfield — requested West's filings and say they're reviewing the signatures and support a challenge as well. (But both say they're still debating whether they would file objections themselves.)
“This is a very high-profile race and if someone’s going to throw their name into it, I just want to make sure the paperwork’s in order," Gilman, 38, tells PEOPLE. "If it doesn’t look like it would be sustainable ... then I think a sufficient challenge would be in order."
Keating, 32, called West's presidential bid a "vanity run" and says he "was not impressed with" the signature sheets the candidate's campaign filed in Illinois.
“If his petition is challenged, it doesn’t have enough of a cushion to where it’s going to survive," Keating says. "If he is challenged by the Democratic Party in Illinois, which is highly likely, they are most likely going to knock him off the ballot.”
In total, 13 different Illinois residents requested West's petition for review as of Thursday morning. No objections have been filed yet, though Dietrich, the election board spokesman, says an objection filing could take days for someone to put together.
Dan Kovatz, the executive director of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, a group dedicated to supporting "the political agenda of the Democratic Party" in Illinois, also requested a copy of West's petition.
Kovatz would not comment on whether he planned to file an objection by Monday's deadline.
His Family’s Concerns
In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes earlier this month about his presidential ambitions, West said God had inspired him to run for office.
“Let’s see if the appointing is at 2020 or if it’s 2024 — because God appoints the president. If I win in 2020 then it was God’s appointment,” he told the magazine. “If I win in 2024 then that was God’s appointment.”
“I have to say with all humility that as a man, I don’t have all of the pieces in the puzzle,” he said then, also telling Forbes: “God just gave me the clarity and said it’s time. … Now it’s time. And we’re not going crazy, we’re going Yeezy.”
At his Sunday South Carolina rally, West drew immediate backlash from the crowd after he claimed famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman "never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people." (Tubman's great-great-great-niece Tina Wyatt later denounced West's comments.)
He also broke down in tears and began to yell as he explained why he is against abortion, saying he and his wife considered aborting their oldest daughter.
On Wednesday, Kardashian West asked the public for "compassion" as she and their family addressed her husband's mental health and remarks.
"I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions," Kardashian West said in her lengthy statement on social media on Wednesday.
"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 said. “Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions."
Kardashian West continued: "Living with bi-polar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big or unobtainable they may feel to some. That is part of his genius and as we have all witnessed, many of his dreams have come true. We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most. I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this. Thank you for those who have expressed concern for Kanye's well-being and for your understanding."
Separately, a source close to West told PEOPLE that several of his friends have been by his side this week out of concern for his health and "are working to get him the help he needs."
"They are very concerned about his mental health and taking action," the source said. "They are working to get him the help he needs. He's been seen by a doctor. He was assessed, and the assessment on Monday determined that he did not need immediate hospitalization and that he was in a stable mental state at the time."