Petitions for candidates to appear on Indiana’s November ballot had to be submitted to county clerks’ offices by noon on July 1. (Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

By Marilyn Odendahl
The Indiana Citizen
July 3, 2024

On a Sunday evening in June, a staffer with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign was outside an Indianapolis Kroger with a pen, clipboard and question for shoppers entering the store: Would they sign a petition to get the independent candidate on the November ballot in Indiana?

The grassroots effort had to collect 36,943 signatures of registered Hoosier voters by July 1 to have Kennedy listed on Indiana’s ballot. A random sampling of county clerks and voter registration offices across the state found the Kennedy campaign had been submitting stacks of petitions and local officials were going through the process of verifying the names and addresses of the people who had signed.

Lane Koch, Midwest regional director for the Kennedy presidential campaign, has been directing the petition work in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. In June, Koch said she was confident Kennedy would be on the ballot in every state and the District of Columbia in November.

Her optimism is fueled by the “incredible grassroots excitement about RFK Jr.,” Koch said. “I’ve been involved in politics for nearly two decades now. This is my third presidential campaign that I’ve work on as a staff member and there’s just nothing like Kennedy supporters. They are incredible.”

Kennedy, an activist and environmental lawyer, is a son of the late Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and U.S. senator from New York who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968 but was assassinated in Los Angeles after declaring victory in the California primary. Kennedy Jr. has made headlines for his stance against vaccines, claims that a dead worm was found in his brain, and, most recently, allegations of sexual assault.

Four of his siblings have denounced his run for president. In a public statement, they said, “Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment.”

Still, in early June, the Associated Press reported Kennedy fell just shy of qualifying for the June 27 presidential debate. He had garnered 15% support in three national polls but needed a strong showing in one more poll to have joined President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on the debate stage.

Koch said people are signing the petitions to get Kennedy on the November ballot because they want to vote for him or they want more options for president. Moreover, she said, she has personally encountered people who are Trump supporters but say they like Kennedy’s views and policies.

“A lot of people sign because they just believe that it’s part of the democratic process that voters should have a choice to make a choice,” Koch said. “A lot of people just want to see more options than just the two parties.”

Verifying the signatures

The Kennedy campaign and other third-party candidates had to submit their petitions of nomination to each county clerk by noon July 1, according to the Indiana Election Division. After the signatures are verified by the clerks, all the candidates must file their consent forms, original certified petitions and statement of economic interests with either the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office or the Election Division by noon July 15.

At the voter registration office in Allen County, roughly 1,500 pages of signatures from the Kennedy campaign arrived June 28 and another 800 pages were dropped off Monday morning, said Katie Zuber, election board member. Green Party candidate Jill Stein had submitted about the same number of petitions, she said.

The voter registration office in Vanderburgh County said it had received two batches of petitions from the Kennedy campaign, totaling about 127 pages, while in St. Joseph County, voter registration officials said two batch of petitions from Kennedy were delivered the last week of June, but a batch that came Monday would not be counted because it had arrived after the noon deadline. In Marion County, the voter registration office estimated the Kennedy campaign had turned in 19,000 signatures the last week of June and 19,000 more on Monday afternoon.

The verification process, Zuber said, requires the names and addresses on the petition be matched to the county’s voter registration rolls. By Monday afternoon, 2,725 signatures on the Kennedy petitions turned over to Allen County had been verified, she said.

In Union County, the clerk’s office said it received two pages of petitions from the Kennedy campaign and was able to verify a total of three of the signatures.

County election officials said the biggest obstacle to verifying the signatures was penmanship. People signing the petitions did not write legibly and officials said they could not figure out who the individuals were.

Other problems that resulted in signatures being invalid included people putting down their nicknames rather than their formal name under which they had registered to vote, officials said. Also, some signees had moved, so the address on the petition did not match the address of their voter registration form, officials said, while other signees had signed a petition when visiting one county but actually lived and voted in another county.

To collect the signatures in Indiana, the Kennedy campaign relied on professional staff and volunteers, Koch said. The team talked to voters and gathered signatures at community events like county fairs and farmer’s markets, she said, as well as outside shopping centers and libraries.

Koch described the petition for ballot access as “a sprint, not a marathon.” Once the petition drive is finished, she said, the campaign will shift its volunteers to engaging with undecided voters and making sure Kennedy supporters turn out on Election Day.

“I would say that we’re really happy with the pace that we’ve been able to accomplish here,” Koch said of her team’s work in Indiana.

Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.

The Indiana Citizen is a nonpartisan, nonprofit platform dedicated to increasing the number of informed and engaged Hoosier citizens. We are operated by the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity. For questions about the story, contact Marilyn Odendahl at 

Related Posts