RFK Jr. files new petition in Nevada amid legal battle over ballot access

With less than a month left to collect signatures in Nevada, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. submitted a new petition to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office Thursday, despite having previously filed a lawsuit against the office in an attempt to secure his place on the state ballot.

The independent candidate filed a lawsuit against the Nevada office last week, two months after learning that the campaign’s collection of over 15,000 signatures in the state would be invalidated because the petition that was circulated to voters did not list a vice presidential pick, which is required by state law for ballot access. Now, Kennedy has submitted an amended petition, listing his running mate Nicole Shanahan, in case the lawsuit filed by the campaign does not result in a win for Kennedy.

While a staffer at the office wrongly informed the Kennedy campaign in March that it did not need a vice presidential pick on the petition, the office maintained that the campaign received clear guidelines for ballot access in a memo the same month.

The Kennedy campaign has claimed that the Democratic Party fabricated a new rule to invalidate his Nevada signatures, and in an email to the office Friday, Paul Rossi, the Kennedy campaign’s lead ballot access attorney, said, “the SOS has reversed [its] position.” 

However, Nevada has required independent candidates to name a vice presidential candidate on their petitions since 1993.

“Given the conduct of the SOS, I want and expect this approved today” in the event that “the federal lawsuit does not quickly yield the expected injunction against the secretary’s new position on VP names on the petition,” Rossi wrote in his email after submitting the amended petition.  

The Kennedy campaign has until July 5 to submit new signatures to the office, which can be collected using the amended petition now including Shanahan’s name, the office told Rossi Friday.

With less than a month left, the campaign will work to collect roughly 10,000 new signatures in Nevada while the lawsuit continues.

Michael Arno, who runs a petition signature gathering company and has worked on ballot access for various independent candidates and the No Labels effort, said gathering that many signatures and more within that time frame should be “very easy.”

Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar previously stated that his office is prepared to face Kennedy in court.

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

As Kennedy scrambles to gain ballot access in Nevada, some Democratic Party leaders worry he may siphon votes from President Biden in the key battleground state. Mr. Biden won Nevada by over 30,000 votes in 2020 against former President Donald Trump.

Somos PAC, a Latino-focused, left-leaning political organization, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Nevada to intervene in the Kennedy campaign’s suit.

“Ballot access laws are an essential pillar of our community and our democracy that safeguards voters and ensures they are informed on who they are petitioning to be on November’s ballot. If RFK Jr.’s campaign cared about hardworking Nevadans, they would put all their efforts into collecting signatures and going through the proper channels to be included on the ballot while there is still plenty of time,” said Melissa Morales, president and founder of Somos PAC.

Supporters of the late Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader and a Nevada native, have turned their attention to Kennedy, and are hoping to slow down his efforts in the state through door-knocking.

Reid, who died in 2021, was known for political organizing and voter mobilization, and his voter coalition, known as the “Reid Machine,” played a crucial role in securing several statewide Democratic victories, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s win in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in Nevada.

“Does anyone actually know why RFK is running for president? This is the definition of a vanity run that could have very serious ramifications for the country,” said Kristin Ramos, a former advisor to Reid. “Nevada is a must win state for both campaigns, and it’s hard to say right now who RFK is playing a spoiler for.”

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