Allies of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are taking a major step toward putting him on the presidential ballot in several key battleground states, hiring multiple signature-gathering vendors to begin the massive undertaking of circulating petitions to submit on the independent candidate’s behalf.
American Values 2024, the super PAC supporting Kennedy, formally contracted three firms to collect voter signatures in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, according to Tony Lyons, a co-founder of the group.
Workers hired by the firms are set to begin collecting signatures in Georgia on Jan. 20, with the efforts in Arizona and Michigan slated to commence soon after. Lyons says it will finance and lead the signature-gathering charge for Kennedy in 10 of the states with the largest threshold of voter petitions required.
While Kennedy is a long-shot candidate, his appearance on the ballot in closely contested battleground states could have a major effect on the outcome of the presidential election. Supporters of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have expressed concern Kennedy could pull support from their candidates in a general election.
Kennedy’s campaign committee has not hired paid signature gatherers, instead working to build a volunteer apparatus to execute their petition effort.
“Right now, we’re relying on our volunteers and feel we have a big enough base to get the petitions we need in each state,” said Stefanie Spear, the spokesperson for Kennedy’s campaign. “If we do need paid petitioners, we’ll absolutely engage in contracts.”
The number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in each state widely varies. Kennedy has so far only qualified for the Utah ballot, where just 1,000 verified signatures were required to be submitted.
But in Arizona, for instance, the required threshold for the presidential ballot as an independent candidate is 3% of the total number of registered voters, which would require more than 128,000 signatures, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. The filing deadline is Aug. 17. Independent candidates must submit their petitions in Georgia and Michigan in July.
In most states, petition requirements placed on independent candidates for president are significantly steeper than individuals running with one of the major political parties. For example, in Arizona, a Democratic or Republican candidate for president must only submit 500 qualifying signatures.
Officials with the pro-Kennedy super PAC said in December that it plans to spend up to $15 million on ballot access efforts. Lyons said the group currently has between $20 and $30 million in its coffers.
The super PAC is targeting some of the most competitive states in the 2020 election — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada — as well as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and New York. It will also helm the efforts for two of the states with the highest-required thresholds: California (219,000) and Texas (113,000).
“We have chosen to pursue these critical states, some of them battlegrounds, due to the complexity of the state election codes and the volume of signatures necessary to achieve ballot access,” Deirdre Goldfarb, the super PAC’s special counsel for ballot access, said in a December press release.
Spear, the Kennedy campaign spokesperson, said their operation will continue to mobilize its volunteer base to circulate petitions for Kennedy in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
“We do not strategize or talk with the PAC,” Spear said. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do. And we’re going to do what we’re going to do.”
In 2016, Evan McMullin, the Republican-turned-independent who ran for president as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump, was only able to qualify for the ballot in 11 states. Four years later, Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, fell short in multiple states in his quest to collect enough petitions to formally run as an independent.