Georgia on Kennedy’s Mind: Will the Peach State, Tired of Being Divided, Unite for the Man who Cleaned Up the Chattahoochee?

Georgia on Kennedy’s Mind: Will the Peach State, Tired of Being Divided, Unite for the Man who Cleaned Up the Chattahoochee?
American Values 2024 | January 25, 2024

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. needs 7,500 signatures on his petition to get on the ballot in Georgia. A critical state in the 2024 election with 16 electoral votes, Georgia has a history of voting for independent or dark horse candidates, such as George Wallace, Jimmy Carter, and Donald Trump.

Signature collection began on January 11; they are due at the Georgia Capital on June 24.


In an October 2023 New York Times/Siena College Poll, 24% of Georgia voters said if they had to decide now, they would vote for RFK Jr. If the crowd at the Georgia Voter’s Rally in Atlanta on January 14 was any indication, that percentage is rising.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at The Tabernacle on January 14 and enjoyed live music, documentaries, and a speech by RFK Jr. He connected with his Georgia audience by referencing his past work with Riverkeeper to clean up the Chattahoochee River, including what he described as a “billion dollar lawsuit” in the year 2000 to stop the dumping of sewage in the river that polluted Atlanta drinking water and harmed fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Is Georgia ready for RFK Jr. in 2024? Nationwide, a recent poll shows he has a 52% favorability rating, higher than Trump and Biden. Kennedy also leads polls of voters under age 45. With more time and more discussion of his policies, could the 24% of Georgians that currently are ready to vote for RFK Jr. become a much higher percentage?

Petitioning for Ballot Access Begins in Georgia

At the entrance to the rally, volunteers had tables set up to collect the signatures of Georgia voters for RFK Jr.’s petition for ballot access. Petitions were organized by county, and as a Georgia voter, I was proud to be the first to sign for my county.

Signature collection will continue until physical signatures are delivered to the Georgia Capitol between June 24 at 9AM and June 28 at 12PM, to declare RFK Jr.’s candidacy.

The Kennedy24 campaign and the super PAC American Values 2024 are pursuing separate ballot access drives. They’re seeking 15,000 signatures, just to be safe, because up to 30% of signatures could be thrown out. A signature can be considered invalid if it does not match the name on voter registration exactly, such as any misspellings. An address on the petition not matching the one on voter registration also makes the signature invalid.

People who sign are not committing to a vote for RFK Jr. in the General Election, but they are taking an important step for promoting democracy and allowing more choices on the ballot. The act of signing the petition does not prevent a voter from voting in a primary election and voting for whomever they choose in the November election.

Fortunately, Green Party of Georgia, et al. v. Kemp (2016) challenged the “onerous and burdensome” petition signature requirement in Georgia of over 75,000 signatures for independent presidential candidates. Independents were required to obtain the signatures of 1% percent of registered voters in the last presidential election. The Court ruled that 7,500 signatures are sufficient.

Just as the Green Party made way for RFK Jr. to have a simpler ballot access process, his quest for ballot access, including a recent victory in Utah, will pave the way for other 3rd party candidates who come after him.

Political History of Georgia

The Peach State was historically Democratic, and the Democrat Party supported slavery during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican; after the Civil War, free Blacks were Republican, but often victims of voter suppression.

After WWII, Democrat President Truman’s racial integration of the military led to a splitting faction of Southern Democrats, the so-called “Dixiecrats,” who supported segregation and the disenfranchisement of Blacks as well as poor whites. Georgia was a blue state until the election of JFK in 1960, when the state flipped to Republican by voting for Richard Nixon.

Infamous for standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent integration at the University of Alabama, George Wallace mounted his second presidential campaign in 1968. Having switched from the Democratic party to run as an independent, he attracted support from Dixiecrats and others disenchanted with what the two-party system had to offer.

Wallace won five states including Georgia and received 46 electoral votes. This was the last time that an independent candidate received electoral votes. If just a few more votes had gone to Wallace or the Democrat Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, who received 301 electoral votes, would have lacked the 270 votes required and the decision of who would become president would have gone to the House of Representatives.

Democrat Jimmy Carter, a native Georgian, won the state in 1976. Although Carter had been in the Georgia State Senate and was then Governor, at the national level he was an unknown, but he captured support with a populist campaign after initially not polling well. Although he wasn’t a Dixiecrat, he gained their support along with Democrats, and healed the divide in the South, just as RFK Jr. hopes to do for our nation.

Georgia remained Republican until 2020 when Joe Biden won the state, in a close election with incumbent Donald Trump. Although Biden and Trump maintain supporters in Georgia, each has lost some support to RFK Jr., according to the polls.

Modern Georgia Elections

Georgia embraced an independent candidate in the turbulent year 1968, and 2024 is a time of similarly divisive politics surrounding war and race, with the added national crises involving the economy and border. Georgia is now a “purple” state, just about equally likely to go red or blue. Recent Georgia elections have made headlines for their contentious nature and complaints from both sides of the aisle about election integrity.

The 2020 presidential election was very close in Georgia – Biden won by only 11,780 votes, about 0.2%. This led to Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to count the votes again in expectation of finding more votes for him, and his subsequent indictment by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Additionally, two lawsuits have been filed by Atlanta poll workers who claimed harassment by Rudy Giuliani. Mother and daughter Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss were accused by Giuliani of stuffing ballot boxes in the State Farm Arena in Atlanta and were awarded $148 million by the courts. The pair have now filed a second lawsuit to stop Giuliani from further defamation. Giuliani maintains that he told the truth and the two poll workers were indeed changing votes. He has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

In the contentious 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams accused Republican Brian Kemp, who was current Secretary of State and was running against her for governor, of suppressing the votes of Black voters and stealing the election from her. Kemp defeated Abrams for a second time in 2022.

Georgia Voting Rights Activism

Fair Fight Action, Inc., a voting rights organization founded by Abrams, filed a lawsuit in 2022 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger alleging voter suppression and irregularities in voter access in the 2018 election, such as purging registered voters, blocking the registration of potential voters, and closing polling places. The courts ruled against Fair Fight Action. She continues to fight for voter rights. She is also a Democrat Georgia elector, signing the 2020 Georgia results which allocated 16 electoral votes to Biden.

The Georgia GOP Election Confidence Task Force was formed after the 2020 election. The task force recommends eliminating unmanned ballot drop boxes, requiring photo ID verification for absentee ballots, and to halt the provision of absentee ballots without a reason. Additionally, they want election observers to be present at each step of the process according to their report from 2021.

Kevin Moncla and Joseph Rossi filed a complaint with the State Election Board in July 2022 stating,

…the Recount was supposed to confirm the reported vote totals from Election Night, and it could not. …sometimes the same ballots appear to have been added in two places. With the additional 20,713 votes counted from unidentified tabulators that had already been added to the initial count, there is no paper documentation of ballots for nearly 42,000 votes.

The Georgia GOP Election Confidence Task Force made a statement December 19, 2023, saying they were disappointed with the handling of the complaint and urged the State Elections Board to investigate the Secretary of State during the four-year statute of limitations. The complaint was shelved and recommended for investigation by the Georgia Attorney General.

Although Fair Fight and the GOP Election Confidence Task Force represent opposite sides of the aisle, their efforts to investigate issues with the 2020 presidential and 2018 gubernatorial elections in Georgia may improve the likelihood of legitimate results when RFK Jr. gains ballot access as an independent. By removing opportunities for fraud, as well as fighting voter suppression, Georgia voters can make their voices heard, and choose an independent candidate uniquely poised to heal the divide between the left and right.

Thanks for reading The Kennedy Beacon!

Melissa Orrison is a journalist who co-presented “The Kennedy Tragedies Through a Risk Management Lens” at In2Risk 2022 in San Francisco, California. She has also worked in higher education and tourism. She lives in central Georgia with her husband, Chris and son, Jack.

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