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Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins

Photo by Editor B/ CC BY 2.0

Third-party candidates played a major role in Donald Trump's election in 2016, siphoning off voters from Hillary Clinton and helping Trump eke out wins by the narrowest of margins in enough swing states to hand him a victory — even as he lost the popular vote by three million ballots.

Four years later, with Trump down in the polls and facing the possibility of defeat, Republican operatives are making a last-ditch effort to try to recreate that same third-party effect, and are playing a behind-the-scenes role in numerous states to get Kanye West and Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins onto state ballots.


Report after report shows that Republicans are helping West and Hawkins navigate the process of getting on the ballot. And they're fighting legal battles to make sure they stay on the ballot.

A report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said a lawyer helping Hawkins fight to get on the ballot has done work for Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature.

Republican activists in Wisconsin also helped West collect signatures for his petition to get on the ballot — an effort that failed after a GOP lawyer with ties to Trump turned the paperwork in past the deadline.

Ultimately, neither Hawkins nor West will appear on the Wisconsin ballot, after the state Supreme Court on Monday ruled that reprinting ballots this late in the game would cause chaos and problems with the election.

But that's not the only state Republicans have tried to help West get on the ballot.

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, met with West — though he denied it was about West's presidential bid.

And NBC News reported that "people connected to Republican politics" have tried to help West get on the ballot in Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois — though West was ultimately booted from the ballot in Illinois and failed to collect enough signatures to make the Missouri ballot.

But even if third-party candidates like West and Hawkins make the ballot in swing states, it's unclear their presence will help Trump this time around, like they did in 2016.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from August found that people who voted third party in 2016 overwhelmingly back Biden. According to the poll, 47 percent of third-party voters from 2016 back Biden, while 20 percent back Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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