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Lack of VP choice may invalidate RFK Jr.’s effort to get on Nevada ballot

The independent presidential candidate’s campaign said it had enough signatures, but its petition did not list a running mate, as state law requires.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Election 2024Elections

In early March, independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign announced it had collected enough signatures to land on Nevada’s ballot. But the signatures are likely invalid because the campaign didn’t list a running mate on its petition.

Under Nevada law, independent candidates seeking a spot on the general election ballot must file a petition for candidacy that includes a vice presidential candidate — which Kennedy's campaign failed to do, according to documents from the Secretary of State’s office. Kennedy plans to announce his vice presidential pick on Tuesday, after which his campaign can restart the signature collection process with around three months left to gather signatures.

The Nevada Secretary of State’s Office sent a letter to independent candidates on March 7 — two days after Kennedy’s campaign said it had received enough signatures — that included a link to its presidential candidate guide, which outlines the applicable Nevada laws including the requirement to list a nominee for vice president. 

CBS News first reported the potential for invalid signatures on Sunday. 

Petitions from independent presidential candidates in Nevada must receive signatures from 1 percent of voters who cast a ballot for a congressional representative in the previous election, meaning the 2024 ballot threshold is 10,095 signatures. The signature deadline is July 5, after which local and state elections officials undertake a signature verification process. 

Kennedy’s campaign on Monday provided emails that show an employee with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office informed the campaign in November that the petition did not have to include a running mate’s name, and a second email that shows the office approved Kennedy’s petition in January.

The campaign accused state elections officials of conspiring with the Democratic National Committee of “outright inventing a new requirement for the petition with zero legal basis” to prevent Kennedy from landing on the ballot (the requirement to include the vice presidential nominee was added to Nevada law in 1993).

Officials with the secretary of state’s office said in an emailed statement Monday afternoon that the inaccurate guidance from an employee at the office was “an error” that will be “handled appropriately.”

“In no way was the initial error or subsequent statutory guidance made with intent to benefit or harm any political party or candidate for office,” officials wrote, noting that state law is “clear” that independent presidential candidates must designate a vice-presidential nominee in his or her declaration of candidacy and that “governmental functions can’t be prevented by the conduct of statements of employees.”

Kennedy’s long-shot presidential bid could draw votes from former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, who defeated Trump in Nevada by a narrow 2.4 percentage points in 2020, or about 33,500 votes. Kennedy has qualified to appear on the ballot in Utah and announced he gathered enough signatures to qualify in New Hampshire and Hawaii. However, New Hampshire and Hawaii require Kennedy to have a vice-presidential candidate before he gains ballot access.

An Emerson College/The Hill poll from last week found Kennedy receiving 9 percent of the Nevada vote. Trump’s lead over Biden in that poll increased from 3 to 5 percentage points when third-party candidates were included.

Kennedy, who is John F. Kennedy’s nephew, is the latest member of his dynastic political family to enter the American political world. He rose to prominence during the pandemic for his false anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, including that “there’s no vaccine that is safe and effective” — a comment he has since tried to walk back — that vaccines cause autism and that the coronavirus might have been “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people. The World Health Organization reports that vaccines “are very safe” and prevent adverse effects from harmful diseases.

Kennedy originally entered the presidential race as a Democrat last year but decided to run as an independent in October. His other policy positions are relatively mainstream Democratic ideas, including a federal $15 minimum wage, transitioning to cleaner energy sources (Kennedy is an environmental lawyer) and police reform.

This story has been updated at 4:55 p.m. on 3/25/2024 to include a statement from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign and the secretary of state’s office.


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