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Kanye West appeals decision to remove him from Virginia ballot

Kanye West, the rapper-entrepreneur who is running as an independent candidate for president, is hoping to get back on the Virginia ballot. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

RICHMOND — Independent presidential candidate Kanye West is fighting to get back on the ballot in Virginia after a judge threw him off last week, urging the state's highest court to weigh in quickly because ballots are already being printed and absentee voting starts next week.

Attorneys for the rapper-entrepreneur filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Virginia late Tuesday, seeking to overturn Thursday’s Richmond Circuit Court ruling that found the West campaign had tricked some voters into helping him get on the ballot.

“Ballots will be printed soon and may already be being printed in some Virginia counties, so resolution of this case is essential by on or before September 18, 2020,” West’s attorneys wrote to the Supreme Court in a motion for expedited consideration.

Judge orders Kanye West off Virginia ballot

In-person absentee voting begins Sept. 18, and the state faces a Sept. 19 deadline to mail absentee ballots, which are in high demand this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

State Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines said the department does not comment on pending litigation. She confirmed that “some localities have started printing their ballots.”

Fairfax County, with nearly 770,000 registered voters, has been printing ballots without West’s name, county spokesman Brian Worthy said Wednesday. It was unclear what would happen to those ballots if West’s appeal succeeds.

An outspoken supporter of President Trump, West could act as a spoiler in swing states by drawing Black voters away from Democratic former vice president Joe Biden. Republican operatives and lawyers have supported West’s efforts in at least a half-dozen states.

Kanye West campaign in Virginia is accused of deceptive signature gathering

West has been ousted from the ballot in several other states because of deficient paperwork. Last month, Virginia’s Board of Elections found that he had met the requirements for the ballot: His team had gathered 5,000 petition signatures — at least 200 of them from each congressional district — and pledges from 13 voters to support him as electors.

Marc E. Elias and other attorneys at the nationally prominent Democratic firm Perkins Coie represented two voters who brought the Virginia lawsuit last week, claiming that West’s campaign had tricked them into signing up as electors.

The BakerHostetler lawyers who filed West’s appeal, Trevor Stanley and Mark Braden, “have extensive ties to the Republican Party,” Charlotte Gomer, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring (D), said Wednesday in a news release about the appeal. She noted that the lawyers had represented the Republican Party of Virginia in the spring, when it opposed a change to absentee voting requirements.

Kanye West’s presidential bid bolstered by Republican operatives

Stanley and Braden did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In a hearing Thursday, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Jeter Taylor found that 11 of the elector oaths were “obtained by improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means, or are otherwise invalid” because of irregularities related to how they were notarized.

In the appeal, West’s lawyers contend that Taylor erred, in part because the campaign had little time to arrange for witnesses or otherwise prepare for the hearing, which was held two days after the suit was filed. Herring’s office had requested an expedited hearing because of looming deadlines for printing and mailing ballots.

Virginia General Assembly votes to expand access to absentee voting, create ballot drop boxes