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An initiative to provide nonpartisan, independent elections journalism for southwestern Pennsylvania.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s campaign files petitions to get on presidential ballot in Pennsylvania

A man in a blue suit speaks into a microphone
Jose Luis Magana
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, May 24, 2024.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed paperwork Thursday to get on the ballot for the November election in swing-state Pennsylvania, the state's election office said.

Kennedy's filing comes six weeks before the Aug. 1 deadline, after which the paperwork can be challenged in court.

The campaigns of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump fear that Kennedy could play a spoiler role in what’s anticipated to be a close election, especially in Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-most populous state.

To qualify for the ballot in Pennsylvania, Kennedy must file 5,000 signatures of registered voters.

With its 19 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is a top-tier prize that has swung between the parties in the last two presidential elections. Both were closely contested: In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, and four years later Biden beat Trump by 81,000 votes.

Libertarian Jo Jorgensen was on the ballot in 2020 and collected just over 79,000 votes, while three minor-party candidates on the ballot in 2016 — the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, the Green Party's Jill Stein and the Constitution Party's Darrell Castle — and got nearly 190,000 votes combined.

Kennedy’s petitions could challenged in court by the two major parties, and both Trump's and Biden's campaigns have sought to portray him as an adversary. Legal challenges must be filed no later than Aug. 8.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and prominent anti-vaccine activist, abandoned his Democratic primary challenge to Biden last year and began campaigning as an independent.

Among the obstacles he faces is a requirement to secure ballot access state by state. That requires him to collect millions of signatures that must be verified by election officials before his candidacy is approved.

Kennedy’s campaign has previously said he has satisfied the requirements to appear on the ballot in 22 states, with a combined 310 electoral votes, though not all have affirmed that his name will be listed.