LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The campaign for Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has filed a federal lawsuit against Nevada after he was denied ballot access.

Nevada Secretary of State Francisco V. Aguilar, named in the lawsuit, issued an interpretation of state law that would force Kennedy’s campaign to start over. That’s because the original petition to place Kennedy on the ballot did not include his choice of a running mate.

Circulation of Kennedy’s petition to appear on the ballot was approved on Jan. 9, 2024. Kennedy didn’t even name his running mate — California lawyer and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan — until March 26. In fact, the apparent problem with the petition didn’t even come up until the day before Shanahan was named as his running mate.

Aguilar ruled that the petition was invalid in March.

The Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that it gave Kennedy’s campaign bad information early in the process. The campaign was told a vice presidential candidate wouldn’t be required to start the petition process.

“Earlier today it was brought to the attention of our office that a Secretary of State employee had provided inaccurate guidance to an independent presidential campaign,” according to a March 25 statement. “This was an error, and 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.”

The Secretary of State’s Office clarified the point: “When a government agency communicates with a member of the public and gives an unclear or incorrect answer to a question, Nevada courts have been clear that the agency is not permitted to honor the employee’s statements if following those statement would be in conflict with the law.  The Court has repeatedly held that governmental functions can’t be prevented by the conduct of statements of employees.”

While the political ramifications were downplayed by the state, they are very real.

An 8 News Now poll of Nevada voters at the end of April showed that Kennedy would draw significant support — 7.7%. Many of those voters would support President Joe Biden in a head-to-head matchup against former President Donald Trump. But with Kennedy on the ballot, Trump gains an advantage over Biden.

Aguilar is a Democrat.

“This is a clear case for the federal court to apply the doctrine of equitable estoppel to prohibit the Secretary of State from changing his mind after providing binding statutory instruction upon which the campaign properly relied to our detriment,” Kennedy Campaign Senior Counsel Paul Rossi said in a statement released Monday. The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Carson City.

Estoppel is a doctrine that prevents someone from asserting a claim or right that contradicts what one has said or done before, or what has been legally established as true, according to the Legal Information Institute.

“The court must prohibit what was either rank incompetence or partisan political gamesmanship by the Secretary from invalidating petition signatures afforded the highest First Amendment protection by the United States Supreme Court,” Rossi said.

The lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to block Aguilar’s interpretation and demands that Nevada accept the Kennedy petition to appear on the ballot.

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