Utah Adjusts Ballot Access Deadline after Lawsuit from RFK Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Draws Closer to Ballot Access in Utah

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. moved a step closer to gaining ballot access in Utah after Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson announced on Dec. 7 that she would extend the deadline for independent presidential candidates to gain access to the ballot to March 5, 2024. This decision followed a lawsuit that Kennedy filed against Utah officials on Dec. 4 regarding what he called an “unconstitutional early filing deadline” that prevents ballot access for independent presidential candidates.

The lawsuit challenged Utah’s Jan. 8 deadline requiring independent presidential candidates to collect and verify 1,000 signatures from qualified voters, arguing that it was the earliest deadline ever imposed for independent presidential candidates in the modern era, and no federal court has ever upheld a January deadline. Paul Rossi, part of Kennedy’s legal team, stated that the early filing deadline directly impairs voters from casting meaningful votes in the general election and is clearly designed to prohibit and impair independent candidates from appearing on Utah’s general election ballot next year.

In the court filing on Dec. 7, attorneys for Ms. Henderson said she would give Mr. Kennedy “an additional 60 days” to file the certificate and any other necessary papers, or for the parties to resolve the present dispute. Mr. Kennedy expressed gratitude for the decision, stating that state officials should not prevent popular candidates from getting on the ballot in a democratic system that is based on people’s decisions.

While this is a significant development, the lawsuit will continue to move through the courts, even with the deadline extension. In the same court filing, Ms. Henderson proposed that a hearing take place the week of Jan. 15, 2024.

Kennedy’s switch to independent status from the Democratic Party on Oct. 9 poses a challenge for him to qualify for the ballots of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Many challenges confront independent presidential candidates seeking ballot access, as guidelines differ in states and legal challenges from Democrats and Republicans aimed at keeping Kennedy off the ballot are possible. Mr. Kennedy’s campaign is collecting signatures in many open states, according to his press secretary, Stefanie Spear.

To further complicate matters, states have varying guidelines about the number of signatories in different parts of their state, and there are processes to challenge signatures after they’ve been submitted to election offices. Nevertheless, the campaign’s goal is to ensure that Kennedy’s name will be on the ballot in all 50 states.

The lawsuit against Utah officials is based in part on a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, as Mr. Rossi explained. The ruling established that independent candidates should have adequate time to gather the necessary signatures, in line with voters’ need to assess major party candidates before deciding on a third-party candidate. Earlier this week, American Values 2024, a super PAC supporting Kennedy’s election, announced plans to spend up to $15 million to get him on the ballot in 10 important states.

The organization intends to spend the money to collect signatures by hand in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Texas. These states were chosen based on the complexity of the state election codes and the volume of signatures necessary to secure ballot access. Signatures from these 10 states represent about half of what is required to secure a spot for Kennedy on the ballots nationwide.

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