Third-party candidates Kennedy Jr. and West take a big step to appearing on Georgia ballot

Third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Claudia De la Cruz submitted petitions to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to appear on Georgia ballots in November.
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

When Georgians head to the polls in November to help pick the next U.S. president, most of them will probably pull the lever for President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

But there are others who think they ought to be sitting in the Oval Office, and several of them took a big step Tuesday toward getting their names on the ballot alongside the major party candidates.

As of Tuesday’s deadline, independents Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West have both submitted petitions to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to appear on Georgia ballots, as has Claudia De la Cruz of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Each candidate was required to submit at least 7,500 petitions from Georgia. The next step will be to validate the signatures on the petitions.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign said she is taking a different route to the Georgia ballot — under the state’s 2024 election law, a party that has achieved ballot access in 20 other states can qualify to run in Georgia. The deadline for that method is Aug. 23, and a Stein spokesperson said she expects to qualify that way.

The Libertarian Party obtained more than 1% of the vote in the last statewide election, earning Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver a spot on the ballot

Several of the third party candidates have already made campaign stops in Georgia, and that could increase as Election Day gets closer.

West spokesman Edwin DeJesus said as West’s campaign transitions from securing ballot access to getting out the vote, their digital operations will expand to more in-person events.

“Georgia is a key focus for our campaign, especially as we aim to connect with Black voters who may be disenchanted with the Democratic Party,” he said. “We are actively building grassroots relationships with community organizers and faith-based leaders who support our mission of offering a viable alternative to the major parties.”

“Our strategy involves not only addressing the immediate concerns of these communities but also presenting a long-term vision that aligns with their values and needs. By working closely with these local leaders, we aim to create a strong, engaged support base that feels represented and heard,” he added.

Trump leads Biden in Georgia by an average of four points in a two-person race, 46.5% to 42.5%, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average. Adding Kennedy, West and Stein into the mix increases his lead over Biden to 5.3 points, 42.8% to 38.5%, with Kennedy earning 7.5%, West 1.7% and Stein 1%.

Third-party candidates could tilt the election’s outcome in a close race, said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie.

“Assuming that these candidates qualify for the ballot, they could be in a position to play spoiler in this election,” she said. “We don’t know yet if the margins between Trump and Biden will be as narrow in Georgia in 2024 as they were in 2020. However, if the margins are in the low 10,000s, then people will look at the number of votes earned by the third-party candidates to determine if those third-party voters could have helped the losing candidate make up his margin against the winner.”

Georgia Recorder Senior Reporter Stanley Dunlap contributed to this report.

This story was provided by WABE content partner the Georgia Recorder.