On January 31 2012, Americans Elect opened up the qualifying round of voting in the first-ever online, proprietary, corporate-run presidential nomination. Starting that morning, Americans Elect delegates could visit this page to draft possible presidential contenders and cast votes in support of qualifying those draft contenders for the Americans Elect nomination. Under the rules in place when this round of drafting and voting began, political insiders had to nab 10,000 votes of support by April 3 2012 to qualify for the ballot, and political outsiders had to gain 50,000 votes of support.
But very quickly, a problem emerged. 24 hours later, on the morning of February 1 2012, only 404 votes of support had been registered for 37 presidential contenders. The top 5 contenders (Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Buddy Roemer, Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders) had on average gained 55 votes of support apiece. Even Ron Paul, the most supported contender, had only gained 98 votes of support on Day 1. That’s far from the pace of over 159 votes/day needed for a contender to reach 10,000 votes by April 3. For political outsiders seeking to run a grassroots campaign, the needed 794 votes/day weren’t anywhere close to appearing.
And so, on February 1 2012, Americans Elect leadership met to pass revision to the ballot qualification process. Under the new rules proposed and passed February 1, presidential contenders would have until May 15, not April 3, to gather the threshold number of votes of support. These rule changes, made with the drafting process already underway, reduce the needed pace of supporting votes down to 95/day.
Even so, the results as of 8 o’clock this morning, five days and about two hours after the draft-vote began, should not be encouraging to Americans Elect. The following are results for the 20 most popular draft candidates. Only two candidates, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, have managed to meet the pace needed to reach even the new extended deadline of May 15.
#1. Ron Paul: 743 votes of support (148.6/day)
#2. Jon Huntsman: 548 votes of support (109.6/day)
#3. Bernie Sanders: 393 votes of support (78.6/day)
#4. Barack Obama: 289 votes of support (57.8/day)
#5. Mike Bloomberg: 225 votes of support (45.0/day)
#6. Buddy Roemer: 194 votes of support (38.8/day)
#7. Stephen Colbert: 178 votes of support (35.6/day)
#8. Gary Johnson: 123 votes of support (24.6/day)
#9. Jon Stewart: 117 votes of support (23.4/day)
#10. Elizabeth Warren: 92 votes of support (18.4/day)
#11. Hillary Clinton: 59 votes of support (11.8/day)
#12. Howard Dean: 56 votes of support (11.2/day)
#13. Colin Powell: 55 votes of support (11.0/day)
#14. Rocky Anderson: 48 votes of support (9.6/day)
#15. Dennis Kucinich: 46 votes of support (9.2/day)
#16. Russell Feingold: 43 votes of support (8.6/day)
#17. Ralph Nader: 41 votes of support (8.2/day)
#18. Al Gore: 34 votes of support (6.8/day)
#19. Condoleezza Rice: 32 votes of support (6.4/day)
#20. Jill Stein: 32 votes of support (6.4/day)
On January 16, Americans Elect complained that no presidential nomination bid should be possibly determined after “Only 369,448 Votes.” That was the tally of the Iowa Republican Caucus and New Hampshire Republican Primary. Of course, the Republican presidential race has turned out to be more competitive than that. It was not until the Florida primary that one presidential candidate had managed to win more than one state, and by that time 2,637,223 people had voted. Yesterday, about 30,000 Nevadans added their numbers to the participants in the Republican nominating process.
The total number of supporting votes in the Americans Elect process so far, tallied up at 8 AM this morning, is 4,066, about 1.5 thousandths the number of people participating in the GOP presidential nomination to date… and as we’ve noted, only two of the contenders are on pace to meet the qualifying goal.
What happens next? With these low numbers, a relatively small draft candidacy campaign with determined and coordinated participants could swamp the Americans Elect nominating process, carrying their preferred candidate to victory. On the other hand, few people might be attracted to the Americans Elect process and only one or two candidates might qualify for the AE ballot under the current rules. If the low participation rates continue, will Americans Elect proceed with just those candidates? Will it change its rules once again with the voting process underway?
Wait and see.
Update: in the comments section below, Joshua reminds me (thanks again, Joshua) that draft efforts for Americans Elect canddates are even farther behind the needed pace than I’ve portrayed here. It’s not just that insider candidates need to get 10,000 votes of support — they need 1,000 votes of support from people in each of 10 states. If there are more than 1,000 votes in one state, they don’t count, and if there are votes outside of the top 10 states, they don’t count either. The outsiders have a similar, even tougher rule: 5,000 votes in each of 10 states.
I don’t know if Americans Elect intended it this way, but this rule probably means that people’s support from small-population states like Wyoming and South Dakota won’t be counted, and that the level of support from a person living in a huge state like New York, Texas and California will not count for very much once the 1,000-support-votes threshold is met in one of those states… if any candidate makes that threshold at all.