The Nevada Democratic Party is leading a legal effort to keep Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from appearing on Nevada’s presidential ballot, alleging in a lawsuit expected to be filed Thursday in state court that Kennedy’s affiliation with other political parties violates Nevada’s legal requirements for independent candidates.

If successful, the case could be a model for removing Kennedy from the ballot in other states with similar laws.

Nevada law stipulates that independent candidates for any partisan office must not be registered with a political party or proposing to run with a political party. The state’s electoral code defines an independent candidate as someone nominated for partisan office but “who is registered with no political party affiliation.” State law governing how independent candidates can qualify for the ballot includes a requirement that “a person may not file as an independent candidate if he or she is proposing to run as the candidate of a political party.”

The lawsuit against both the Kennedy campaign and the Nevada secretary of state will contend, sources say, that Kennedy’s campaign violates both of those laws. Kennedy is a registered Democrat in New York and has accepted various minor parties’ nominations in other states. He is running as the nominee of the third party he founded, the We the People Party, in Hawaii and North Carolina, on the American Independent Party ticket in California, for the Natural Law Party in Michigan and the Reform Party in Florida.

The Nevada Democratic Party, in coordination with the Democratic National Committee, brought together two plaintiffs, registered Republican Uwe Rockenfeller and registered Democrat Francisco Morales, to file the lawsuit. The complaint will ask the court to instruct the secretary of state to bar Kennedy from the ballot.

The quixotic scion of the famous Democratic political family, Kennedy is best known for promoting false conspiracies about vaccines. But he could prove to be a potential spoiler in the 2024 race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump — his polling average in Nevada exceeds that of the gap between Trump and Biden. 

In a statement, Nevada Democratic Party Executive Director Hilary Barrett said Kennedy’s partisan affiliations make him ineligible to appear on Nevada’s presidential ballot.

“The State of Nevada has set up a reasonable process for placing candidates on the ballot,” Barrett said. “RFK Jr.’s campaign has not met the requirements necessary to run as an Independent non-affiliated party candidate in our state.”

The Democrats’ lawsuit is not the Kennedy campaign’s first legal battle over ballot access in Nevada. 

Kennedy submitted his petition to appear on the Nevada ballot after announcing he had acquired the required signatures in early March. However, the Nevada secretary of state’s office later advised the campaign that the petition signatures were likely invalid, because the signatures were collected before Kennedy had announced Nicole Shanahan as his vice presidential nominee in late March — likely violating Nevada law stipulating that independent candidates’ petitions include a running mate.

Kennedy’s campaign then filed a lawsuit against the Nevada secretary of state in early June, which is still pending in federal court.  In the meantime, he filed a new petition and has been trying to collect signatures again before the July 5 deadline — which itself had to be re-filed in mid-June because the campaign misspelled “United States.”

Kennedy’s ballot access strategy is different from that of Ross Perot, the 1992 independent candidate who won 19 percent of the vote. Perot did not accept the nomination of any party, appearing on the ballot in all 50 states as a nonpartisan independent candidate. Perot won 26 percent of the vote in Nevada.

This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. on 6/20/24 to correct the list of states where Kennedy is running as the nominee of the We the People Party. Updated again at 2:13 p.m. to correct that the secretary of state’s office did not reject Kennedy’s petition.

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