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Last week, when news broke that rapper and entertainer Kanye West successfully earned a spot on Colorado’s presidential ballot (he qualified in nine other states, too) pundits around the country began debating how his candidacy might impact November’s election. West’s entrance into the race, of course, grabbed local attention—especially when it was reported he had been camping in Colorado and met with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in Telluride last weekend.
West indicated he entered the race to draw votes away from former Vice President Joe Biden, though the efficacy of that strategy, whether it’s been designed by Republican operatives or West himself, will only be tested in the states where he’s qualified to make the ballot. It’s no surprise that Colorado is one of those states.
That’s because getting on Colorado’s presidential ballot isn’t very hard. West, for instance, had to pay a $1,000 fee, find nine people to sign on supporting his candidacy, and turn in the required paperwork by the August 5 deadline—which he did with the help of some Republican strategists. And because it’s relatively easy, he’s got plenty of company.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office recently released a list of unaffiliated and third-party candidates who qualified for the November 3 ballot. So far, there are at least 16 others in addition to Kanye West; by the time President Donald Trump and Biden are officially nominated by the two major parties, Colorado’s ballot could contain nearly 20 contenders. In 2016, Colorado’s presidential ballot featured 22 candidates.
You likely won’t recognize the other candidates on the list, aside from California-based businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who seems to make his way onto almost every ballot these days. But even if these candidates have virtually no chance of being elected to anything—let alone the presidency, is there a chance that West and the others might have some impact on the results coming out of Colorado?
Probably not, says David Flaherty, CEO of the Louisville-based polling and research agency Magellan Strategies. “The way we look at it here as pollsters and people who study this, we don’t think it’s a very effective strategy and we don’t think it will have any real impact on the election at this time,” Flaherty says. “If Kanye or the folks that are trying put this plan in motion have serious money behind it and he actually starts doing advertising of some kind? I don’t know. Maybe it will catch voters’ attention.”
Four years ago, despite a crowded ballot, Colorado’s nine electoral college votes all went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that almost two dozen others ran against her. Aside from former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who won 5.2 percent of the vote, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who earned 1.4 percent, no other candidate exceeded 1 percent—not even Rocky, who, yes, was on the ballot.
“It’s typical. There’s always this many candidates,” Flaherty says. He notes that while Johnson and Stein had some influence four years ago, we haven’t seen a third-party candidate really disrupt an election since Ross Perot won nearly 20 percent of the general election vote in 1992. “None of these candidates fall into that category whatsoever.”
According to most polls, Biden has a commanding lead over Trump in Colorado, and it’s unlikely West or any other third-party candidate is going to change that.
“If the people behind the Kanye West movement feel like making an effort here is worthwhile,” Flaherty says, “I would say they’re being misconsulted.”