“Surprise Tactics and Legal Threats: Inside R.F.K. Jr.’s Ballot Access Fight”


As Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign mounts a bruising state-by-state battle for ballot access, he has often credited enthusiastic volunteers and grass-roots backers with driving the effort.

In fact, the operation has become increasingly reliant on consultants and paid petitioners whose signature-gathering work has yielded mixed results and raised questions of impropriety, even among Mr. Kennedy’s fans. In order to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in all 50 states, as is his goal, his campaign has deployed a multipart strategy: aggressive legal action, shrewd political alliances and surprise filing tactics meant to slow or prevent challenges.

In most states, Mr. Kennedy, 70, an environmental lawyer and heir to an American political dynasty, must produce thousands of signatures, under rules that are varied, intricate and confusing at times even to the local officials administering elections. The effort has already cost his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a supporting super PAC at least $2.4 million more, federal campaign finance records show. It has involved a number of professionals who specialize in getting people on the ground with clipboards and petitions, and helping candidates navigate the complicated process. Their success is what will make or break Mr. Kennedy’s campaign.

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