Kanye West fails to qualify for Montana presidential ballot

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An effort to qualify Kanye West for the ballot in Montana as a presidential candidate has fallen short, the secretary of state’s office said Thursday.

Only 3,972 signatures out of nearly 8,800 turned in were deemed valid, state officials said. West needed 5,000 to qualify as an independent candidate.

It wasn’t clear who was behind the petition effort in Montana. One of the signature gathering supervisors, Micah Marchbanks, said West was paying the signature gatherers. He also said he believed they had turned in enough signatures to get West on the ballot.

Nearly all of the signatures came from Yellowstone County, which validated 3,400 signatures and rejected about 4,200.

In other states, Republicans were boosting the effort to get West on the ballot, fueling suspicions that he was being pushed to run by allies of President Donald Trump to draw support away from Democrat Joe Biden. That theory made less sense in Montana, which Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.

In Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Vermont and Arkansas activists with GOP ties were involved in securing the rapper’s spot on the ballot. Trump’s campaign denied any involvement.

West is also trying to get on the ballot in Wyoming, where he owns a home.