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Americans Elect Enacted New Bylaws November 18. What Changed? What Didn’t Change?

The 501c4 corporation Americans Elect is arranging for the nation’s first-ever privately-run online nomination of candidates for President and Vice President of the United States in 2012. As with any other corporation in the United States, it has a set of bylaws. On November 18, 2011 the Americans Elect corporation held an unannounced meeting at which it amended its previous bylaws.

A month later, Americans Elect has not posted changes to the bylaws, or posted any notice of the changes, on its website for public review. Furthermore, Americans Elect has generally made it a practice to post its documents as images that cannot be indexed by search engines or searched by keyword. For these reasons, Irregular Times has retyped the bylaws into an easily searchable text format, based on a pdf file submitted to the Florida Secretary of State on November 22, 2011. You can read the full text of the amended bylaws here.

What’s Changed?
Americans Elect has a long set of bylaws with a number of wordy clauses, but the number of changes from the previous version is small. For the benefit of your quick review, the following are the changes made compared to the previous set of bylaws:

Change #1: Added to end of Section 2.3 on delegates: “All Delegates and persons registered to vote in Americans Elect have a fundamental right to fully and meaningfully participate in the business and affairs of Americans Elect without any monetary encumbrance.”

Readers should note Section 2.1: “Delegates shall not have rights of approval regarding corporate governance and administration of Americans Elect.” There appears to be some conflict between these clauses, with Section 2.1 restricting fundamental rights expressed in Section 2.3. The language added to Section 2.3 appears to be an attempt to satisfy the requirements of Florida State law, to which Americans Elect is subject because it has registered as a political party.

Change #2: Added to end of Section 7.1 regarding the creation of state affiliates: “The Board retains sole authority whether to raise and expend funds or conduct campaigns for nominees, when such activities are required by law.”

This clause centralizes authority in the Board of Directors of Americans Elect rather than permitting state affiliates to act on their own.

Change #3: Revision of Section 8.1.2: “Website. Americans Elect shall maintain a public website at www.americanselect.org for timely notice of the names of candidates, officers and other such information required to be disclosed by law. All notices of convention votes and meetings, including date, time and place, shall be posted on the website at least three (3) days before the scheduled event.”

Added to end of Section 8.2: “All other meetings of Delegates or Committees shall be convened upon at least three (3) days notice sent electronically to all Delegates as to the time, date and place or website of the meeting.”

These changes also appear to be an attempt to satisfy the requirements of Florida State law to which Americans Elect is subject. Any meetings taking place in the future therefore must be posted on the Americans Elect website at least three days before the meeting occurs. It will be up to the public to ascertain whether this requirement has been met.

The provision requiring notice to delegates is interesting, given that at this date Americans Elect has not signed up any delegates, which as the bylaws specify must have their voter registration verified. Will Americans Elect use this loophole to evade notification of meetings of committees?

Change #4: Added to Section 9.1, regarding Electors: “Americans Elect shall not require such persons to be registered or affiliated with Americans Elect and such persons may be registered members of any political party or unaffiliated with any political party to be eligible for appointment, unless otherwise required by law.”

What Has Not Changed?
With the passage of a full season between the last version of the Americans Elect bylaws and the current version, there has been a fair amount of feedback given to Americans Elect regarding weaknesses in its bylaws. We at Irregular Times have noted provisions in the bylaws that include:

1) absurdly high numbers of delegates (numbers never reached in American history) needing to vote to overturn decisions of the corporate board of directors.

2) corporate-controlled committees that have the right to kick out presidential candidates the corporation deems unsuited for nomination.

3) a general clause granting Americans Elect the right to exercise powers to prevent Americans from using the Americans Elect system to obtain a result the corporation finds inappropriate.

4) a loyalty pledge required of all delegates promising to support Americans Elect and not to disparage any delegate (including Americans Elect corporate leaders, all of whom according to the bylaws have delegate status), violation of which is punishable by expulsion and disenfranchisement.

Despite feedback, none of these provisions have been amended. They remain in the bylaws despite the opportunity for Americans Elect to have reformed.

17 comments to Americans Elect Enacted New Bylaws November 18. What Changed? What Didn’t Change?

  • Americans Elect seems to change its bylaws as often as I change the sheets on my bed.

    • Mike

      @Peregrin: In a growing organization there will be changes to how it conforms to all the laws that pertain to ballot access. You act like its an institution as old as the parties themselves. I invite you to do some research on the tangled web that prevents new organizations to get a candidate on a national ballot and then defend them. They of course are made by the two parties (the only ones that write the laws).

      I’m interesting in access to our democratic process, so I;d be interested in your response..

      • Amanda Whiting

        Funny you mean to put down an organization that has gathered together and is recieving en masse support for something that is constitutionaly right and protected. As a member of Americans Elect I am happy to see that I will be able to make a change in this country for the better. Americans Elect is the best example of Democracy at it’s finest.

    • Amanda Whiting

      Americans Elect make changes as needed to the growing needs of the group. Every group must make changes to go with the idea of the group. What you do not think that the Republicans and Democrats do not do the say yes they do.

  • As usual, reasonable concerns blow up into wackadoo conspiracies when you look at AE.

    #1 – This isn’t abnormal at all for a political membership organization, to say members don’t have to pay money to be members, and it would be outlandishly strange if regular members were given the same power as board members. No different than most political groups like this.

    #2 – Can you not read? It doesn’t say anything about what state affiliates can or can’t do. All it says here is the national organization will decide how to spend the money the national organization raises. They’ve already made clear that once the candidate has been selected, the candidates have to put together their own campaign. As a 501c4, the national organization isn’t allowed to directly set up a campaign for them.

    #3 – Americans Elect has hundreds of thousands of delegates already… not sure where you got this idea that they haven’t signed up any.

    Etc – This is a political membership organization with a plainly stated goals, and safeguards in place so the organization can’t be hijacked by fringe groups and candidates like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. If people don’t like that… nobody is forcing them to join. Its like complaining about MoveOn being left wing and even less transparent than Americans Elect is… or FreedomWorks being the tool of the Koch brothers and supporting right wing loons.

    • First, it’s not a “wackadoo conspiracy” to share information, and I find it intriguing that you’re trying to conflate the two. Does that make matters more comfortable for you? I’m not the one talking about a conspiracy; you brought up “conspiracy.” I’m wholly uninterested in trying to prove what Americans Elect wants or what Americans Elect intends. Nobody can prove what that is. I’m just interested in what Americans Elect does. That’s plenty interesting enough.

      Second, you either have not read the bylaws or you have not read them carefully. What Americans Elect has is members. It has not gone through the process to bring a single member through to delegate status. Members are not the same as delegates.

      Read the bylaws and get your facts straight, Solomon. I know you like Americans Elect; that’s fine. But please, get your facts straight before you start rolling out words like “wackadoo.”

    • P.S. Ever since August, when you [a No Labels organizer] bragged how you nabbed an interview with Americans Elect via contact with John Avlon [a No Labels organizer and an Americans Elect booster], I’ve been returning over and over to your Rise of the Center website to see the transcript of the interview you promised.

      You had an opportunity, man. I’m really interested to see what you did with it. It’s been four months, Solomon. When are we going to see that interview transcript?

  • As far as your PS – I’m a volunteer supporter of No Labels, not an organizer. Having a meetup for No Labels in my home town doesn’t make me an employee. Not that I wouldn’t take a check from No Labels. I generally like the work they do.

    I don’t have a transcript of my interview with Ackerman… and I don’t remember ever saying that I’d post a transcript. Did I? (not a sarcastic question)

    I interviewed Ackerman for something like a half hour, and I’ve used pieces of what I learned that day in several posts, tweets and Facebook posts, as well as refuting BS like this. I’ve also had the chance to hang out with him, and other AE staff, at a couple AE events that were in Nebraska a couple weeks ago.

    Don’t give me that garbage about sharing information. You are doing a service with your vigilence, but you’re doing a HUGE disservice with your seeing of demons in the shadows, reading nefariousness between the lines and making all sorts of outlandish assumptions that you have no way of knowing one way or the other. It’s classic projection.

    You said Americans Elect doesn’t have delegates, and I didn’t say members and delegates are necessarily the same, did I? I don’t know how they define membership as far as legal status goes. I do know how they define delegates, and there are six digits of them who have joined up.

    • 1. You did say you would post a transcript of your interview. You said that repeatedly in August. Go check your blog.

      2. Notice your “flexibility” with language. You’re denying being an “employee” of No Labels, but I didn’t say you are an “employee” of No Labels. I said you were an “organizer” of No Labels, and you clearly are. Look for Omaha No Labels’ Facebook page, for yet another link, and you can find Solomon Kleinsmith’s name all over it.

      3. You say I’m projecting and nefarious and demonic and garbage. My stars! But never mind me. Let’s say I am Satan Incarnate. Who cares? Name one fact I’ve gotten wrong. Name one single fact I’ve gotten wrong. Then DOCUMENT that error — and then I’ll have learned something new, which would be great. But coming up with new adjectives to express negative sentiments doesn’t accomplish anything.

      4. Besides “delegates,” I mean, because you’re just plain wrong on that account. Read the bylaws, read the bylaws, read the bylaws, read the bylaws, read the bylaws, read the bylaws. Americans Elect has not yet verified the voter registration of its Members. It therefore does not have any Delegates.

      You’re free to write whatever you want, of course, Solomon. But if you want me to respect what you write, check your facts.

  • Just to clarify that last part. I have read the bylaws, but I do not have them memorized. But I don’t need to to know that there are delegates, and that in membership organizations the organization defines what powers different levels of people have. It’s not abnormal for organizations to give members some partial control over how the organization operates, like Americans Elect seems to, and it’s also not at all abnormal for organizations to be totally top down, like MoveOn (who I worked with on a few things a few years ago, and was really surprised at how top down they were). When people join an organization, they don’t magically get to control that organization, and Americans Elect never said they did. They said they’ve be able to nominate candidates, and the ticket would have to be balanced. If people don’t like that, they don’t have to join.

    • Dove

      Sorta thought the “if you don’t like it you can leave” part would come after the people who don’t feel represented by the 2 parties had used a revolutionary forum to work out a new political platform of some sort. Now that we see that isn’t the case, I wouldn’t want anyone else to fall for that tease. It is indeed normal for non-democratic organizations to not let their members change the purpose of the organization over the board’s objection.

    • Again, the bylaws are very clear on this point, Solomon. There are not any delegates yet.

      Americans Elect certainly said that people would be in charge. They even rolled out a public relations campaign in which they declared that “the delegates — and the rest of the American people — are the true boss of Americans Elect.” link.

      They said, and they say, that Americans will get to pick the candidate. There are multiple points in the process at which that is not true. Read the bylaws, or read them again.

      You’re right that some organizations are top down while claiming populism. I think it is better for people to know when that’s the case, don’t you, Solomon?

  • Dove

    It may be that what used to be the difference between members and delegates is now the difference between delegates and Verified delegates. The debate section implies that those people debating are delegates, but I don’t see how they ever began to verify voter registrations.

    • Americans Elect Bylaws, most recent version, passed November 18 2011:

      “ARTICLE 2 Membership and Delegates

      “Section 2.1. Members Generally. All American citizens are eligible for membership in Americans Elect, while only American citizens who are registered voters may vote in convention as Delegates. Delegates shall have the exclusive power to vote regarding all matters presented by Americans Elect at the convention, provided, however, that Delegates shall not have rights of approval regarding corporate governance and administration of Americans Elect.

      “Section 2.2. Members. All persons who are citizens of the United States may register online as Members of Americans Elect or by alternative means of registration as Americans Elect may provide or as particular states may allow, regardless of their membership in any political party. All Members who are registered voters shall be eligible to become Delegates of Americans Elect upon verification of their lawful voter registration status by means of verification as determined by the Board. Members may participate in all activities of Americans Elect but shall not vote unless verified as Delegates.

      “Section 2.3. Delegates. Delegates are Members who have submitted sufficient information to permit verification of their lawful status as registered voters and citizens of the United States, and who have been so verified by Americans Elect, and who have accepted the Delegate Pledge as provided by the Rules Committee. Upon receipt of verification for eligibility as a Delegate, Delegates shall have the authority to vote and participate in all aspects of online conventions and decisions in accordance with the convention rules and these Bylaws, and may participate in such additional voting consistent with the purpose of Americans Elect as may from time to time be presented to the Delegates for decision. All Delegates and persons registered to vote in Americans Elect have a fundamental right to fully and meaningfully participate in the business and affairs of Americans Elect without any monetary encumbrance.”

      Americans Elect Rules, most recent version
      (9-30-11, most recently resubmitted to the State of Florida on Nov. 22, 2011, see http://doe.dos.state.fl.us/PublicRecordsBER/wfPublicImagesBER.aspx?account=55236 )

      “Rule 1.0 Delegate Qualification and Eligibility to Vote. Any natural person who is a citizen of the United States, age 18 or older, registered to vote in any state or the District of Columbia on the date they cast a vote in the Americans Elect Convention, and entitled to vote in the election for President of the United States shall be qualified to be a voting Delegate of Americans Elect, upon submission of the following proof of qualification:

      “1.1 Voter Identification. His or Her full name as reflected on his or her registration; date of birth; residential address including street, apartment number if applicable, city or town, state and zip code that matches the public voter registration address; and such publicly available information to verify status as a citizen and registered voter as Americans Elect may request.

      “1.2 Acceptance of Delegate Pledge. Any Delegate shall submit via the Americans Elect website, http://www.americanselect.org (“Website”) their acceptance of the Delegate Pledge substantially in the form attached in Table 1 below and shall conduct themselves in accordance with the requirements of the Delegate Pledge to remain eligible to vote as a Delegate.”

      There has not been verification of voter registration. There has been no mechanism on http://www.americanselect.org for a Delegate Pledge for people to accept. There are members of Americans Elect, but nobody’s a delegate. This is important, because delegates have rights that members don’t have, such as the “fundamental right to fully and meaningfully participate in the business and affairs of Americans Elect” and the right to notice of all meetings of committees, including the all-important Rules Committee.

      • Dove

        So the rules haven’t changed and there is no official definition of a verified delegate beyond what is required for a regular delegate.

        How did Solomon arrive at a delegate count? Is there yet another innocent sounding domain I would need to log onto and give them my personal info to be more than a non-voting member?

  • Brad M.

    Solomon,

    I will have to agree with Jim’s comments regarding your statements that you were going to provide the interview with AE. In fact, I was eagerly awaiting it and never saw it materialize. I was very disappointed since you’d promoted it quite clearly.

    Enjoy your blog, but you do get a demerit for not following through on your promise to post the interview.

  • Lee Mortimer

    I would have to say that I agree with Brad and with Jim on the interview with AE. I was very much looking forward to reading about it when you announced it would be on your blog. And I asked several times on your blog when you were going to have it — but it just never appeared.

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