There is no plausible reality in which Kanye West becomes the next president. And yet people disenfranchised with the electoral system say they’re voting for him anyway.
“Do I think he's going to win? No. Do I think we need change? Yes. Am I voting for change? Am I voting for my interests? Yes,” 33-year-old Quentin Jones told BuzzFeed News.
After officially announcing his candidacy in mid-July and reportedly spending nearly $12 million on his own campaign, West is only on the ballot in 11 states, making it mathematically impossible for him to earn enough votes to become the next president of the United States. In August, a survey by Morning Consult/Politico showed that only 2% of 2,000 registered voters in the US supported West.
BuzzFeed News spoke to seven people who said they plan on voting for or have already voted for West, ranging from ages 19 to 42 in states across the country, including Florida, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and California. In the past, some of them had only cast ballots for either Republicans or Democrats; others are first-time voters.
They also don’t have much in common except their disdain for the predominantly two-party system.
“We have to wake up as a group of people and realize that we aren’t limited by two choices, because not everyone lines up with the views of the Democratic Party,” William Tablada said. “So if I vote for Kanye, I feel like I’m taking that first step to move forward as a country and move towards having multiple parties.”
Tablada said he was initially skeptical when the rapper announced his candidacy. In June, Tablada saw footage of West marching in a Black Lives Matter protest in Chicago — something the 19-year-old Floridian was disappointed that neither Trump nor Biden participated in. So he started to seriously consider West as an option.
“I haven’t been super open about it, but I’ve gotten a lot of flack from people who do know [I’m voting for West],” Tablada said. “But you have to let people believe in what they want to believe in. You can’t shut down people’s ideas just because they don't seem like they’re going to pan out.”
A registered Republican in Wyoming, West has been outspoken about his support for Trump, notoriously wearing the red “Make America Great Again” hat and visiting the White House. Now he’s running for president as a member of the “Birthday Party.” In California, he’s listed on the ballot as a vice presidential candidate for the American Independent Party alongside presidential nominee Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente Guerra. Markham Robinson, vice chair of the AIP, told TMZ the far-right political party nominated West and De La Fuente without either candidate knowing, and the hope is to take away votes from Biden.
Jones, a Denver resident who said he voted for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, said he went with West on his ballot this time because he isn’t satisfied with either Trump or Biden.
“I’m a Black man in America,” he said. “It’s things on both sides that rub me the wrong way as far as who’s available to me as an option, so I chose another option that’s available.”
In August 2015, West took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and told the audience he was going to run for president in 2020.
“It's not about me. It's about ideas. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth," he said. "And yes, as you probably could've guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president."
It was at that moment that Jones’ wife, 42-year-old Cerissa Jones, decided she was also going to vote for West if he followed through with his promise. So when she saw his name on her ballot in Colorado, she said, she voted accordingly.
“I’m not going to vote for Biden, who tells me I’m not Black if I don’t vote for him. I voted for Kanye West and I’m still Black and my family’s still Black,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I’m not going to vote for these racist old white men who keep running America. That’s how we got to this point. I need to see something different. Kanye is not in his seventies, and he’s a Black man from the inner city; he doesn’t come from wealth like these other people.”
Cerissa’s 23-year-old son said he also voted for West. Earlier this month, his tweet about voting for West went viral, with many critics saying a vote for the rapper takes away a vote for Biden and aids Trump. But Cerissa defended her son, saying people should respect the right of others to vote for whomever they want.
“I don't think Kanye West can do anything worse than what Donald Trump has done for America,” she added.
Supporters say they agree with West on religious freedom, family values, and his “America first” philosophy. But they also just like who he is as a person.
West did not respond to a request for comment. But on Tuesday, his campaign released a video of people saying they’re voting for West. One of them, Mikael Darrian Crane, a 20-year-old Latino man from Dallas who is a first-time voter, told BuzzFeed News he wasn’t planning on casting a ballot until he learned that his favorite rapper was running. Now he plans on writing in West’s name on his ballot.
“Out of the three options, he’s the best choice,” Crane said. “If there was a better Democratic candidate, I’d be willing to vote for that party. But I think Kanye West is the best choice.”
While West’s popularity in the race hasn’t reached significant heights, some voters are concerned that third-party candidates are a distraction from the two candidates most likely to be elected to the Oval Office. In 2016, there was a thin margin of votes between Trump and Clinton in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, candidates for the Libertarian and Green parties, respectively, may have impacted the final results.
But his supporters disagree; they told BuzzFeed News that a vote for West is a vote for West only, and that it sends a message.
“A vote for Kanye is a vote for nonpartisan political change. A lot of people are dissatisfied with the candidates that are out there today, which is a direct result of only having Democrats or Republicans running,” California resident Mikey Fischer told BuzzFeed News.
Fischer, a 30-year-old white man, said he’s voted for Republicans in the past but was originally on board with Democratic candidate Andrew Yang until he dropped out of the race. Now he hopes West can help “break down the two-party system.”
“Voting for a third-party candidate normalizes having more people run and having more competition not just between two candidates,” he said.
Danny, a 39-year-old white man who did not want his last name used for this story, said he’s voted for Republican candidates all his life and didn’t think it mattered whether he voted for Trump or Biden because, according to him, in his home state of Utah, “it doesn’t really matter if you vote for someone other than a Republican for president, because they're going to win no matter what.”
But he decided to change it up when he saw West’s name on the ballot.
“The weirdness dial in America is already cranked up. Donald Trump is president — the guy from The Apprentice, the guy who has his name on golden towers — and then Kanye West takes off the MAGA cap and says, ‘I’m running for president now,’” Danny said. “And I opened up my ballot and the first thing I see is Kanye West and I’m like, he’s doing it, the crazy motherfucker is doing it, and I just think, Okay, sure, why not? Why not Kanye?”