RFK Jr. sues Nevada Secretary of State over ballot access

RFK Jr.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By Casey Harrison

June 3, 2024

The petition circulated by the Kennedy campaign to get him on Nevada’s ballot in November never listed a running mate, which conflicts with state law. Now, RFK’s team is threatening legal action if the petition is rejected.

Third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Nevada Secretary of State’s office in order to appear on the ballot for November’s presidential election.

Kennedy’s campaign announced in March that it had collected more than 15,000 signatures to appear on Nevada’s Nov. 5 general election ballot — more than the requisite figure for independent candidates to qualify for the ballot. Kennedy’s petition, however, was submitted before he announced attorney Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, and was rejected by Democratic Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar’s office because state law requires minor parties to list candidates for president and vice president when submitting their signatures.

CBS News reported March 24 that Aguilar’s office had acknowledged a staffer incorrectly gave the campaign information that a vice presidential pick was not required. But Aguilar’s office told The Nevadan on Friday that staff also sent guidance to “all independent campaigns for president that had filed petitions for ballot access,” and that time remains before the June 10 deadline to challenge the validity of signatures collected by a minor party candidate.

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“Nevada has a rich history of independent and third party candidates for office,” Aguilar said in a statement. “Each of those candidates managed to attain ballot access by following the law. We look forward to seeing Mr. Kennedy’s team in court.”

In a letter to Aguilar’s office dated May 23 stating the intent to file litigation, Paul Rossi, a lawyer for Kennedy’s campaign, said they have been circulating a petition since January in a bid to put Kennedy on the ballot. Rossi said the petition only provided a “single line for a single candidate,” creating ambiguity that “runs to the very edge of the statute” — but also expressed the possibility of settling the matter outside of court.

“Should we reach a settlement, we will drop all further litigation and not seek any attorney fees or costs,” Rossi wrote in his letter, according to a copy obtained by The Nevadan.

Rossi also offered to circulate Shanahan’s name in public notices in newspapers across the state to correct the omission of RFK’s running mate, as well as contacting the petition’s signatories to allow them a chance to withdraw their support if they choose.

CBS was first to report the exchange between Kennedy’s campaign and Aguilar’s office. The news comes just days after Kennedy’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (naming CNN, President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and their campaigns) for not inviting him to participate in a scheduled June 27 debate.

Kennedy, who left the Democratic party in October, has claimed Democrats and Republicans are colluding to suppress his campaign in favor of a major-party candidate, while CNN has said RFK has yet to meet its criteria for participating in a presidential debate.

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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