After hearing arguments from attorneys representing the Idaho Democratic Party, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, and rapper Kanye West, a 4th District judge today said he’ll have a ruling by noon tomorrow on the legal challenge to West’s Idaho ballot status as an independent candidate for president. “I appreciate the arguments and the briefing put together on short order,” Judge Jason Scott told the court.
Boise attorney Carl Withroe, arguing on behalf of the Idaho Democratic Party and two Idaho voters, thanked the court for scheduling this afternoon’s hearing “on what can only be described as not a whole lot of notice.”
West filed as an independent, declaring that he wasn’t affiliated with any political party, but at the time, he was a registered Republican in Wyoming.
“The requirement that an independent candidate for an office be independent actually serves several interests,” Withroe argued, “those that flow to the state, and then others to folks on the ballot, and then to voters.” Disaffiliation or non-affiliation statutes, he said, protect voters against candidates who really are with a party, but either try to run as an independent “having failed in a primary … or in an effort to bleed votes from the other party’s candidates.” He said Idaho’s statute is “really broad,” requiring “no party affiliation, full stop.”
The judge asked Withroe about the wording of the Idaho statute. “It requires the candidate to declare that the candidate has no political party affiliation,” the judge said. “It doesn’t require that the candidate have no party affiliation. … If you say you aren’t affiliated, that’s all the statute requires, and Mr. West evidently did that here. So … where do I find, I guess, reason to think that the Legislature expected either the Secretary of State or a judge or someone else to look behind a candidate’s certification on this subject?”
Withroe said, “If there’s no way to ensure the accuracy of it, there’s no meaningful enforcement mechanism.”
Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrondo, representing Denney, told the court, “Based on a plain-language reading of the statute that plaintiffs rely upon, there is no obligation that the candidate actually be an independent. … They must declare, they must swear that they have no political party affiliation, but to read anything more into that is incorrect.”
“It’s really a question for the political process,” she said. “Mr. West’s opponents are very able to hold up his declaration of candidacy and his Wyoming registration and say, ‘You shouldn’t vote for Mr. West for these reasons.’ But for the Secretary of State to basically sort him off the ballot pre-emptively is just not an appropriate thing for government to be doing.”
Boise Attorney Richard Stover of Eberle Berlin, arguing on behalf of West, told the court, “My contention, your honor, is that the Legislature, this Legislature in the state of Idaho, has chosen not to micromanage every aspect of the … election process, but rather to trust the electorate to educate themselves.”
He said, “There’s plenty of time for candidates to run around and accuse each other of lying.”
Scott asked for additional briefing by 9 a.m. on the issue of standing, if any of the attorneys wanted to submit such briefs, and said, “I’m going to get a decision out by noon tomorrow.”