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Robert F. Kennedy sued in New York over ballot access, petitions

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WASHINGTON ― Two New York residents backed by the Democratic National Committee have sued Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to try to keep the independent presidential candidate off the November ballot in their state, accusing his campaign of submitting invalid petition signatures and engaging in fraudulent activities to collect them.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the New York Supreme Court in Nassau County, is the first ballot-access lawsuit targeting Kennedy so far coordinated by the DNC, which has been scrutinizing Kennedy’s efforts to qualify for states’ ballots across the country.

The two plaintiffs, Elaine Portuondo Smith and Andrena Wyatt, claim that about 115,000 of the 146,135 signatures submitted last month by Kennedy’s “We the People” signature collecting program are invalid, putting Kennedy well below the 45,000-singature threshold required to make it on New York’s ballot.

More: Election spoiler? How President Biden’s allies hope to stop Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

They argue some signatures lack dates or addresses, with no city or town listed. Others are illegible or signed by non-registered voters, they said, among a long list of other objections.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jared Kasschau, also alleges that paid canvassers hired by the Kennedy campaign to circulate the nominating petitions to New York voters “knowingly and intentionally misrepresented and/or concealed” that they were asking them to sign their names to place Kennedy on New York’s ballot.

The lawsuit cites a New York Times article that detailed how some New York voters said they were told they were signing a petition to vaguely support independent candidates and were presented a petition that was folded over to hide Kennedy’s name.

The Kennedy campaign did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

Defendants served with the lawsuit Monday also include Kennedy’s vice presidential candidate Nicole Shanahan and the New York Board of Elections.

The same plaintiffs filed a formal objection with the New York Board of Elections last Wednesday, challenging Kennedy’s New York petition under identical complaints.

The Kennedy campaign on May 28 touted that it had submitted nearly three times the 45,000 signatures required for Kennedy to qualify as an independent presidential candidate in New York.

Although Democratic-leaning New York is not a battleground state − and President Joe Biden is expected to easily carry it again in the 2024 election − Kennedy has pointed to his eligibility in New York, with 28 electoral votes up for grabs, to claim he’s qualified for enough states to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.

“The pattern of fraud outlined by New York voters shows the (Kennedy) campaign is willing to do whatever it takes to get on the ballot,” said Matt Corridoni, a DNC spokesman. “Given the sheer number of out-of-state paid signature gatherers, it’s unlikely these activities are isolated to New York. Everyone should follow the rules, and the campaign’s approach mocks the system and exposes RFK Jr. as an unserious candidate propped up by Trump’s largest donor.

The lawsuit comes after Clear Choice, a group aligned with Biden, last week filed a residency complaint with the New York State Board of Elections to challenge Kennedy’s candidate in New York. The group argues that Kennedy resides in California, not the Katonah, New York address listed on his petition.

Reach Joey Garrison on X @joeygarrison.

Anna Harden

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