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Libertarian AG candidate stays on ballot, despite being ineligible

Updated September 8, 2022 - 8:49 pm

The name of the Libertarian attorney general candidate who dropped out of the race will still remain on the ballot in November, though he’s not eligible to hold the job, a Carson City District Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Republican nominee Sigal Chattah challenged John Kennedy’s candidacy in August, citing a new legal requirement that they must be members of the State Bar of Nevada. She argued that having his name on the ballot would take away possible votes for the Republican Party. Defendants in the case were Kennedy, the Nevada secretary of state’s office and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

That same day, Kennedy withdrew his candidacy and asked that his name be removed from the ballot after learning he was ineligible to run because he is not an attorney. He wrote to the secretary of state’s office, saying that he had believed he was qualified.

In 2021, the Legislature added a provision to state law saying all attorney general candidates must be State Bar members in good standing. Before that, non-attorneys could run for attorney general.

Carson City District Court Judge James E. Wilson Jr. struck down Chattah’s lawsuit because it was filed four days after the deadline to change November’s ballot and 105 days after the deadline to file pre-election candidate challenges, according to his ruling filed Wednesday.

“The public has an interest in not paying for ballot corrective action caused by a very late filing of a pre-election candidate qualification challenge,” Wilson wrote.

Because the judge ruled in favor of the secretary of state, Chattah filed an appeal Thursday afternoon with the Nevada Supreme Court.

“I think it’s necessary for the Supreme Court to weigh in on this, especially since Kennedy requested that the secretary take his name off the ballot,” Chattah said.

Chattah argues keeping Kennedy’s name on the ballot could cause irreparable harm, as Libertarian voters could vote for Kennedy instead of voting Republican.

Chattah blamed the secretary of state’s office for not enforcing election laws and not researching Kennedy’s background.

Chattah also argued that voters using mail ballots may not realize Kennedy is disqualified and vote for him anyway, but Wilson found Chattah did not prove that having Kennedy’s name on the ballot will negatively affect the outcome of her race.

A disqualified candidate is not a candidate, so it is in public interest for the secretary of state’s office to give notice to mail voters that Kennedy is disqualified and that a vote for him will not be counted, Wilson wrote.

Election officers must post a sign at each polling place where the person’s name will appear on the ballot and inform voters that the person is disqualified, Wilson wrote, citing Nevada’s statutes.

Wilson also ruled in favor of the secretary of state’s office, saying that it is up to electors to file challenges if they believe a candidate is not qualified to run.

“The statutes do not expressly or implicitly require the secretary of state to investigate every qualification of every candidate, or any qualification of any candidate,” Wilson wrote.

Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford’s campaign declined to comment for the story, citing pending litigation.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

Sigal Chattah v. Barbara Cegavske ORDER by Steve Sebelius on Scribd

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