Kanye West’s campaign is facing allegations that voters were deceived by signature gatherers circulating paperwork to qualify the rapper-entrepreneur for the Virginia ballot, the latest setback for a stumbling presidential bid that also is facing problems in other states.
Two signed affidavits were submitted Friday to the State Board of Elections from registered voters who said they were duped into signing up to serve as electors for West in Virginia. In a separate account, an Alexandria woman said Saturday that a man tried to obtain her signature on one of West’s petitions under false pretenses.
West has qualified to appear on Virginia’s ballot this fall as an independent presidential candidate, a state elections official said – meeting the requirement for 5,000 petition signatures, at least 200 of them from each congressional district.
It is unclear how the accusations of deceptive signature gathering could affect his status. The West campaign and state elections officials did not respond to questions about the allegations on Saturday.
Those who say they were targeted expressed outrage at the campaign’s tactics – and, in some cases, regret that they may have inadvertently helped West onto the ballot.
“I am so embarrassed,” said Matthan Wilson, a 53-year-old high school government teacher from Suffolk who submitted one of the affidavits. “I don’t want to be an elector for Kanye West. I don’t want to vote for Kanye West. I only like one or two of his songs.”
Wilson said he was out for a bike ride earlier this month when he was approached by three people who asked if he would like to serve in a statewide pool of electors.
Distracted during his exercise, Wilson said, he signed, only later realizing that the request didn’t make sense, since electors – a largely ceremonial position held over from the early days of the electoral college – are chosen by political parties.
He said he found out that he was named as one of West’s pledged electors from a reporter, about 10 days after the encounter with the signature takers.
“I feel that I’ve been cheated,” he said.
Samantha Durant of Newport News also submitted an affidavit to the elections board stating that she was approached by a group that presented her with what they said was a petition to “get an independent candidate on the ballot.” She writes that she did not know that she was signing up as an elector for West.
New York magazine reported earlier this month that seven of West’s 13 electors in Virginia said they were unaware of how their signatures were being used.
The affidavits were submitted to state election officials by Virginia Democratic Party activists, said Robert H. Brink, chairman of the elections board. Brink declined to comment on whether the affidavits could alter West’s standing on the ballot.
Barbara Scheeler, a 55-year-old Alexandria Realtor, independently emailed The Washington Post to describe an encounter she had with another signature collector for West.
She said she was standing outside a Walmart on Aug. 20 when a man approached her with what he described as a petition “to give somebody else a chance” on the ballot. He would not answer her questions about who it was or what race it was for, Scheeler said in an interview. She said the man also folded over the cover sheet on his clipboard to hide the name of the candidate.
Scheeler said she took the clipboard to look at the name. When she expressed incredulity that it was West, she said, the circulator turned to her 16-year-old son and asked if he would like to sign.
“If this is the way that they were handling most of the signatures, I think that people didn’t realize what they were signing,” Scheeler said. “It was very, very deceptive.”
The allegations in Virginia are the latest in a series of problems faced by West, who has been kicked off the ballot in multiple states because of deficient paperwork. In some cases, his petition circulators have been accused of using deceptive tactics to collect signatures.
West has been an outspoken supporter of President Trump, and the motives behind his campaign are murky. Republican operatives are connected to the West bid in at least five states.
In the key swing state of Wisconsin, the Democratic Party submitted affidavits to the state election commission from people who had signed West’s petitions but said they had been misled about their purpose.
The state’s election commission earlier this month voted to disqualify West from appearing on the November ballot, saying that his forms had been submitted too late. On Friday, West’s campaign filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin challenging the decision.
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The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.