Are R.F.K. Jr. Signature Gatherers Misleading New Yorkers for Ballot Access?

Amy Bernstein, a traffic court judge in Brooklyn, was heading home from work one night in late April when, she said, a young man carrying a clipboard approached her on the subway platform, asking if she would sign a petition to help place independents on the ballot in New York.

The top of the petition was folded underneath itself, so that the names of the candidates were not visible, Ms. Bernstein said. She asked for more details and told the man she was a judge — at which point he yanked the clipboard away, she said, and asked: “Am I going to get in trouble?”

The petition was for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign, which is working to collect the signatures needed to secure a spot for him on the November ballot in New York State. The campaign needs 45,000 but is aiming for more than 100,000. Candidates often collect far more signatures than they need in case some end up being invalidated for various reasons.

“At a minimum, it’s misleading,” Ms. Bernstein said of the interaction. “I was just pretty much taken aback.”

More than a half-dozen New York City residents, including two who are journalists at The New York Times and were approached randomly, have described similar encounters with signature gatherers for Mr. Kennedy in Brooklyn over the past three weeks. In each case, the resident was approached by a clipboard-wielding petitioner and asked to support “independent” or “progressive” candidates, or, in one case, to help get Democrats and President Biden on the ballot.

In three cases, the petitioners said that they were being paid for the work, the people who were approached said; in four cases, the petitioners said they had been told by a supervisor not to show or mention Mr. Kennedy’s name. Descriptions and photographs of the petitioners suggest that they are at least four different people. The petitioners themselves could not be identified or reached for comment.

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