For the two sides arguing about Kanye West’s nomination papers, the issue is anything but Mickey Mouse.
Last week, West’s campaign team turned in more than 2,400 signatures in his bid to get on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin. To make it, an independent candidate needs 2,000 signatures approved by state regulators.
Among those signatures were several that stood out, including ones by Mickey Mouse, Bernie Sanders and even Kanye West. Actually, there were two of these.
For Democrats, who are fighting West’s candidacy, these are proof of the sloppiness of his campaign. They filed a challenge to West’s nomination papers last week, urging the Elections Commission to strike these names and bump him from the ballot.
An attorney for West shot back by saying the burden is on the Democratic Party to prove that these are not real Wisconsin voters. That’s the way the system works, he said.
The lawyer did not point out that state regulators allowed signatures by Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler back in the recall election of then-Gov. Scott Walker. Yes, that really happened.
Now, Jeffrey Mandell, an attorney for the Democrats, has filed a response in which he argues that his side doesn’t have to prove anything. The signatures are obviously bogus, he said, and the state should strike them.
“The (state Elections Commission) may certainly take notice of the fact that these are celebrity names, are not in common usage and are not real Wisconsin electors,” Mandell wrote. “To say otherwise, as respondents do, is to interpret Wisconsin law in ways that lead to absurd results.”
There you go — obvious and absurd, or unclear and unproven.
This is one of a handful of issues that the bipartisan Elections Commission will have to deal with when deciding whether to put rapper West on the Wisconsin presidential ballot in November.
For many, the campaign may look like a vanity project for a billionaire celebrity with a lot of personal issues. But it is very important to political partisans in Wisconsin.
Democrats are concerned that a West candidacy will siphon votes from former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is expected to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.
Wisconsin Republicans took an active part in trying to get West on the ballot. At least five of his 10 electors are Republican activists or Trump supporters. Also, Lane Ruhland, an attorney for the Trump campaign in a Wisconsin lawsuit, helped file the nomination papers for the West campaign.
One Wisconsin Republican source has said the goal is for West to get 107,000 votes, about what Libertarian Gary Johnson did in 2016. Trump won the state by a little more than 22,000 votes.
So when West’s team turned in its nomination signatures, the Democrats immediately pushed back. They filed a complaint saying West should be kept off the ballot for a variety of reasons — including its Mickey Mouse signatures — but mostly because his campaign was late with its signatures.
Michael Curran, the attorney for West’s campaign, countered with a 24-page response dismissing most of the criticisms.
On Thursday, the Democratic Party filed its response to the West campaign’s response. Again, the focus was on whether the rapper-turned-politician beat the buzzer when his team filed its nomination papers.
Mandell, the Democrats’ attorney, said the issue is simple.
West’s campaign had until 5 p.m. on Aug. 4 to turn in 2,000 signatures to get on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin.
By all accounts, the West campaign was late. Timers kept by a TV reporter and a Democratic official at the scene suggest Ruhland and an assistant were a minute or two late filing the papers.
But even using Ruhland’s own testimony, Mandell said, she was late. He dismissed the suggestions that she was hampered by an “overly aggressive media” and by state officials who locked the door at the Elections Commission’s building.
Therefore, Mandell said, the state Elections Commission should not allow West on the ballot.
He urged the commission to reject the West campaign’s claim that it actually had until 59 seconds after 5 p.m. to submit its signatures. If the state were to accept the argument made by West’s attorney, the Democrats said, it would be substituting a clear deadline with a flexible one.
“When the statute says ‘5 p.m.,’ it means 5 p.m.,” Mandell wrote in his Thursday filing.
Beyond that, Mandell said, the earlier filing by the West campaign defending his nomination papers should be tossed because the billionaire celebrity failed to provide a sworn signature on the document. Mandell said the response is not “verified” and should not count.
Curran, the attorney for the West campaign, did not return calls to his office.
Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.