Kanye West has been kept off the presidential ballot in Wisconsin as his campaign turned his nomination papers in minutes after the deadline.
West announced his intention to run for president on a ticket called the Birthday Party in July and has since been gathering signatures to get on the ballot in several states.
Democrats allege that Republicans are pushing Mr West’s candidacy in several swing states to siphon black votes away from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Wisconsin is expected to play a key role in deciding the election after Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016.
A group of voters filed a complaint with the state Elections Commission earlier this month alleging West campaign workers missed the 5pm deadline on August 5.
That was the cutoff for independent presidential candidates to submit the required 2,000 signatures from Wisconsin voters to get on the ballot.
West’s campaign lawyer Michael Curran argued during a hearing before the commission that West campaign workers did not enter the commission’s building until 14 seconds after 5pm on August 5 but commission staff still accepted the papers, constituting a timely filing.
Commission staffer Cody Davies told the panel the building was locked due to the coronavirus pandemic but he was waiting in the lobby to let filers in as 5pm approached.
He said West’s representatives called him at 4.57pm and said they were three minutes away.
He said he let them in 14 seconds after 5pm and accompanied them on the lift ride up to the commission’s offices.
Another commission staff member, Riley Willman, said he was in the commission’s lobby to accept papers.
He said West’s representatives placed the papers on the counter one minute past 5pm, but had to organise them and he did not take possession until several minutes past 5pm.
Commissioner Robert Spindell, a Republican, pushed the panel to give West the benefit of the doubt, saying the pandemic has made life harder and his people might have made it to the commission in time if the building doors had been open.
He also argued that Democrats are unfairly trying to keep a black candidate off the ballot.
“We are talking a matter of seconds here,” Mr Spindell said.
But the rest of the commission said common sense dictates that 5pm is 5pm.
Commissioner Dean Knudson, a Republican, said: “This is one of the closest call cases I’ve seen but consistency requires me to treat all candidates the same, regardless of their party or their colour or any other characteristics.
“I think the complainants have (presented clear) evidence that he was late.”
The commission voted 5-1 to keep West and running mate Michelle Tidball off the ballot, but West could challenge this decision in court.