The commission found that West and his running mate Michelle Tidball missed the Aug. 5 deadline required for a candidate to submit at least 2,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot.
West, who is running as an Independent on a presidential ticket he has deemed the “Birthday Party,” was reportedly minutes late in submitting his 2,422 signatures.
Michael Curran, West’s campaign attorney, argued that the staffer delivered the signatures in the building 14 seconds past 5 p.m., but the commission staff still accepted the signatures.
Commission staffer Cody Davies explained to the commission panel that he received a call from a West staffer at 4:57 p.m. to say they were three minutes away.
Davies had to let them in as the doors were locked due to coronavirus regulations, but said he waited in the lobby for the staffer to arrive.
At 14 seconds after 5 p.m. the staffer entered the building and they rode the elevator up together at 50 seconds past 5 p.m.
Riley Willman, another commission staff member, told the panel that he received the signatures at 5:01 p.m., but they were not organized so he had to wait several minutes until he took possession of the signatures.
Wisconsin’s Election Commission is split three to three, Democrat and Republican, but in a 5-1 vote, they found that West was not eligible to join the state’s ballot Thursday.
Commissioner Robert Spindell, a Republican, was the only one to vote in favor of putting West on the ballot.
Spindell argued that the pandemic has made life more difficult and if the doors had been unlocked this could have played a role in submitting the papers on time – despite the testimony that the commission staff member was waiting in the lobby for West’s signatures to arrive.
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Spindell also reportedly said that Democrats were just trying to make it harder for a Black presidential candidate to join the ticket, and that Black voters should have a choice.
Democrats likewise have argued that Republicans have been pushing support for West in order to syphon votes away from the Biden-Harris ticket.
“We are talking a matter of seconds here,” Spindell said.
But the other five commissioners said that the deadline of 5 p.m. needed to be followed, not 5:00:14.
“This is one of the closest call cases I’ve seen but consistency requires me to treat all candidates the same, regardless of their party or their color or any other characteristics,” Republican Commissioner Dean Knduson reportedly said. “I think the complainants have evidence that he was late.”
West could challenge the decision in court, if he chooses to.
Wisconsin is a swing state and proving to be a contentious battleground between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.
The Trump administration visited the state three times this week alone, as the Democratic National Convention (DNC) was set in the capital of Milwaukee. Former Vice President Joe Biden will not give his DNC acceptance speech from Wisconsin, instead giving it live from his home state of Delaware because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden campaign also chose to have the convention held by way of virtual events and speeches in light of the pandemic.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential race with 47.9 percent of the vote, whereas Clinton received 46.9 percent of the votes – meaning the Trump campaign won by just over 27,000 votes.
But Wisconsin voted blue in the 2012 and 2008 elections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.