COURTS & LEGAL

Henderson agrees to extend Utah ballot access deadline to March 5 after RFK Jr. lawsuit

Dec 7, 2023, 2:23 PM | Updated: 4:33 pm

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month...

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month with supporters at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. An armed man who allegedly was impersonating a federal officer was taken into custody outside the event. (Hans Gutknecht/The Orange County Register via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Hans Gutknecht/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said she will give independent presidential candidates until at least March 5, 2024, to turn in the required signatures in order to gain ballot access in the state after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. alleged the original deadline of Jan. 8, 2024, was unconstitutional.

Kennedy’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Henderson and state elections director Ryan Cowley on Monday in federal court, claiming the early date violated the rights of voters. As an independent, Kennedy would have had until Jan. 8 to provide 1,000 signatures from registered voters in the state, which he claimed limited his access to the ballot given the short period of time before the deadline.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. files lawsuit against Utah for ‘unconstitutional early deadline’ practices

In a court filing Thursday, attorneys for Henderson said the lieutenant governor would give candidates like Kennedy until at least March 5 to file those same signatures.

“Defendants agree and represent to the court that, until at least March 5, 2024, they will not reject any unaffiliated candidate’s certificate of nomination to be placed on the ballot in Utah for the office of president of the United States, simply because the certificate and verified nomination petitions were not filed by Jan. 8, 2024,” the filing states. “This action provides at least an additional 60 days for the plaintiff Kennedy to file the certificate and other necessary papers or for the parties to litigate or otherwise resolve the present dispute.”

Kennedy’s staff celebrated the decision, which it called a “ballot access victory” in a statement Thursday.

“I am pleased Lt. Gov. Henderson had the courage to correct the wrong committed by the state Legislature in their intentional assault on the constitutional right of Utah voters to cast their vote for Mr. Kennedy in 2024,” campaign attorney Paul Rossi said.

“In a democracy, the people are supposed to decide with their votes who gets into office,” Kennedy said. “Not state officials who prevent popular candidates from getting on the ballot.”

Henderson issued a statement Thursday, saying: “This decision has been made in the spirit of affording every reasonable opportunity for unaffiliated presidential candidates to participate in our general election. Key legislators are aware of the potential problems with the current statute. I am confident these issues will be addressed in the upcoming legislative session.”

In the same court filing, Henderson proposed that a hearing on the lawsuit — which will continue to work its way through the courts despite the agreement not to enforce the deadline — be held the week of Jan. 15, 2024.

Kennedy spoke to supporters at a rally in Salt Lake City last which as part of an effort to collect signatures in the state.

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Henderson agrees to extend Utah ballot access deadline to March 5 after RFK Jr. lawsuit