By Jeff Louderback
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced that his campaign has filed paperwork in six states to create its own political party.
The move was made to get his name on the ballot in those states with fewer voter signatures than is required for candidates not affiliated with a party.
In five states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, and North Carolina—Mr. Kennedy’s campaign formed the “We the People” party. The “Texas Independent Party” was also established.
Getting on the ballot in every state and the District of Columbia is grueling, time-consuming, and expensive, Mr. Kennedy said.
Guidelines for securing a ballot spot differ in many states, as do deadlines. North Carolina and Texas, for example, require independent candidates to file by mid-May. Multiple states have summer deadlines.
Some states have varying guidelines about the number of signees in different parts of their state.
Legal challenges from Democrats and Republicans intent on keeping Mr. Kennedy off the ballot are possible. Signatures can be challenged after they’ve been submitted to election offices in multiple states.
Filing for political party status in the six states reduces the number of signatures required for Mr. Kennedy to gain ballot access by about 330,000, according to a statement by his campaign.
To get on the ballots of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Mr. Kennedy noted, his campaign must collect about 1 million valid pen-and-paper signatures through petitions across the country.
“Effectively, this means closer to 1.5 million to ensure that enough are valid,” Mr. Kennedy said.
In a press release on Jan. 16, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign said that multiple states give independent presidential candidates two methods of achieving ballot access—as an individual candidate or as the nominee of a new party.
The two processes often require different numbers of signatures, the campaign explained.
“In most states, the individual candidate process requires fewer signatures. However, in some states, party ballot access requires fewer signatures and is therefore the most direct path to ballot access in those states,” the campaign noted.
Once the new party gains ballot access, it can nominate a candidate.
In California, the party must register 75,000 people to “We the People,” according to the campaign. The party will get on the ballot in Delaware with around 760 registered voters.
Hawaii requires signatures from at least 862 registered voters. The new party must collect and submit a minimum of 13,865 signatures in North Carolina.
In Texas, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign is required to get at least 81,000 signatures to participate in precinct conventions so his Texas Independent Party can be included on the general election ballot.
At a voter rally in Atlanta on Jan. 14, Mr. Kennedy praised the “grassroots army of more than 50,000” who are working to collect signatures in every state and the District of Columbia.
“Democracy is a lot more than voting. I’m inspired by how enthusiastic people are to collect signatures, cast ballots, create new political parties, and attend rallies,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement.
“That kind of energy is what will get us onto the ballot in every state and fuel our voter registration and GOTV (get out the vote) operation as we head toward election day.”
Mr. Kennedy continues to travel the country holding rallies and collecting signatures to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. He had an event in North Carolina this past weekend and will appear in Hawaii on Jan. 17.
Earlier this month, Mr. Kennedy announced he met the signature requirement to appear on Utah’s 2024 general election presidential ballot. Utah was the first state where Mr. Kennedy submitted signatures.
Utah had presented the first deadline until Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, a Republican, announced that she would extend the deadline for independent presidential candidates to gain ballot access to March 5.
Mr. Kennedy had filed a lawsuit against Utah officials on Dec. 4, 2023, citing an “unconstitutional early filing deadline” that prevented ballot access for independent presidential candidates.
Utah’s Jan. 8 deadline had required independent presidential candidates to collect and verify 1,000 signatures from qualified voters.
One of ‘Worst Forms of Voter Suppression’
Mr. Kennedy has called ballot access laws for independent and third-party candidates “among the worst forms of voter suppression in America today” and said that state officials should work together to “streamline and standardize ballot access procedures.”
Ballot access restrictions “artificially prop up the two-party duopoly,” Mr. Kennedy added, noting that a Gallup poll conducted in September 2023 showed that 63 percent of American adults agree that “the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that another choice is needed.”
On Oct. 9 in Philadelphia, standing in front of the National Constitution Center with the words “We the People” etched into the building by his side, Mr. Kennedy announced that he would run for president as an independent and leave the Democrat primary, which he said was “rigged” by the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign noted in a press release that “We the People” are the first three words in the U.S. Constitution and “these words symbolize that our government draws its power from the people that it was created to serve.”
At that event, Mr. Kennedy said he was “declaring independence” from the Democratic Party, the two-party system, and “the corrupting influence of Wall Street and corporate donors that have rigged our economy for the few at the expense of the many.”
American Values 2024, the super PAC supporting Mr. Kennedy, said that it planned to spend more than $10 million to get on the ballot in 10 states, including California and Texas.
Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, and New York are the others.
The super PAC recently announced it had hired three firms to collect voter signatures in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.
Stefanie Spear, press secretary for Mr. Kennedy’s campaign, noted that the campaign is not related to the super PAC and has not hired paid signature gatherers.
“With our volunteers, we feel we have a big enough base to get the petitions we need in each state,” Ms. Spear said, adding that the campaign will hire paid petitioners if needed.