Hearing set on Suffolk men’s lawsuit

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2020

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A hearing has been set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the case of two Suffolk men suing to block rapper Kanye West from appearing on the Virginia ballot in November’s presidential election.

Matthan Wilson and Bryan Wright, both registered voters who live in Suffolk, say they were tricked into signing a paper agreeing to serve as electors in support of West’s independent bid for president, the lawsuit states.

The emergency hearing will be held Thursday in an attempt to decide the case before most of the state’s ballots must be printed, the lawsuit states.

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On July 25, West tweeted, “I will beat Biden off of write ins #2020VISION” but less than a month later tweeted a list of 10 states where he had qualified to appear on the ballot. Some of those, however, he has already been disqualified from.

To qualify to appear on Virginia’s ballot as an independent candidate for president, potential candidates must meet certain criteria. Among them is a requirement that they submit oaths from 13 electors who pledge their support for the candidate in the upcoming election, as well as a petition of at least 5,000 signatures of registered voters supporting the candidate’s inclusion on the ballot, which must include at least 200 from each congressional district.

In the lawsuit, Wilson states he was riding his bike on or around Aug. 11 when he was approached by someone who asked him to sign to be an “elector for the state” and told him his name “would be entered into a pool to be individually picked to be part of the Electoral College.” He was not told he was committing to vote for West or to be an elector for West. He learned the true nature of the document only after being contacted by a news reporter.

Wright also was approached with a document and was led to believe it was a petition, not an Elector Oath.

The lawsuit states neither man intends to vote for West or serve as an elector and they wish to withdraw their elector oaths.

The lawsuit also includes another purported elector who says her signature was obtained under false pretenses and presents issues with eight more purported electors. The eight others were notarized by a single notary, also serving as an elector. Because electors are paid, it gave her a financial interest in ensuring the campaign obtained enough other electors, which should have invalidated her notarization, the lawsuit states. Some of the other electors’ signatures were also obtained under false pretenses as well.

A response to the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Mark Herring’s office states the commonwealth and the state elections officials do not “tolerate any type of election fraud. Similarly, this court has had little patience for keeping candidates on the ballot who have used underhanded and fraudulent tactics to ‘steal a spot on the ballot.’

“Plaintiffs present evidence of concerning deficiencies in all thirteen elector oaths, based on sworn statements of the electors and alleged violations of Virginia Code Title 47.1 which governs the practice of notaries in Virginia,” the reply says. “Should this court determine that the notary oaths were false and fraudulently attested to and, therefore, should be invalidated and West removed as a qualified candidate, then the Commonwealth Defendants will work with their local counterparts to effect disqualification of West.”

The lawsuit also states the ballot printing process for some localities has already passed. Remaining localities will send ballot proofs to printers no later than Sept. 4, prompting the emergency hearing.

If West is disqualified after ballots are printed, the response to the lawsuit says, elections officials could address the matter by posting information in each polling place and on election information websites.

West has been disqualified from the ballot in five other states, Illinois, Montana, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, because of not filing enough valid signatures or not filing on time.

Thursday’s hearing will take place in Richmond Circuit Court.