On the last day of January 2012, Americans Elect rolled out its online voting system by which identity-verified delegates could draft candidates to appear on the ballot for the Americans Elect presidential nomination. Americans Elect has indirectly referred to the number of people participating in the new candidate-drafting system…
“The Americans Elect Candidates page has been up for a short time, but already, ‘360,000 delegates have drafted 52 candidates for president,’ says the San Francisco Chronicle.”
… but as Americans Elect ought to know, that “360,000” number is misleading. There are about 360,000 people who have signed up for accounts at Americans Elect. Some smaller number — nobody but Americans Elect knows who — have actually qualified as delegates by agreeing to have their voter registration status checked and verified. And a much smaller number than that has actually participated in the process of drafting and voting in support of candidates for president.
What is that number? Again, we don’t know for sure, because Americans Elect isn’t telling. But what Americans Elect has revealed is the number of votes of support for each presidential candidate. A successful draft candidate needs 1,000 votes in each of 10 states to make it on the AE ballot if they’re a political insider, and five times as many votes if they’re a political outsider. As of 7 o’clock this morning, 4557 votes of support had been cast for 141 presidential candidates on the Americans Elect candidate system. A delegate can cast one vote of support per candidate, but can vote to support as many candidates as they like. At most, if each delegate cast just one vote to support just one draft candidate, there are 4,557 delegates participating in the system — a much lower number than the implied 360,000. If the average delegate is voting to support two candidates they like, the number of participating delegates is halved, down to 2,279 participants.
Lower still are the numbers of people who’ve been taking to social media to talk about Americans Elect since the presidential draft system emerged. Using open-source NodeXL software, I’ve generated the following graph of Twitter posts about Americans Elect from January 31 through February 5, a period when 248 Twitter users made 661 Twitter posts featuring the phrase “Americans Elect.” Each dot represents a different Twitter account making reference to “Americans Elect,” and each line indicates one account retweeting or mentioning another account.
A few trends are noticeable. First, there are many fewer posts about Americans Elect being made than just a few months ago. Compare what you see above to this graph of Twitter talk being made during the week of Christmas 2011.
Second, mainstream news media do not dominate the online discussion of Americans Elect as they did last year. Indeed, the sole mainstream journalistic source playing a prominent role in this graph (conservative columnist Byron York) is actually captured in this network for writing the unrelated text regarding Mitt Romney, “do Americans elect businessmen president?”
Third, there was noticeable Twitter talk about Buddy Roemer and Ron Paul running under the Americans Elect system, some of it generated by Buddy Roemer’s own Twitter account and some of it generated through conversations held with jenn_56, a devotee of Ron Paul who repeatedly asked her followers to vote Ron Paul up in the Americans Elect system. Twitter talk by or on behalf of other candidates is negligible or absent, as we’ll see in a graph below.
Fourth, there are a number of connections between the Americans Elect primary account, Americans Elect staffers Sam Edelen and Nick Troiano, Americans Elect Chicago co-organizer Bonnie Larner (account blarner), centrist website Rise of the Center, and Buddy Roemer. By contrast, the Ron Paul draft effort during this period is entirely self-contained, not conversing with any of these players.
Finally, if we look simply at the volume of tweets made during the period of January 31 through the morning of February 6 containing the phrase “Americans Elect” and either the name, the hashtag or a mention of the account of a presidential candidate, we’ll see that Ron Paul and Buddy Roemer are the only draft contenders for whom this connection is being significantly made. This graph shows results for the current top 10 draft candidates in the Americans Elect voting system:
When we include blog mentions of “Americans Elect” with candidate names, significant discussion activity appears for Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg and Gary Johnson. In contrast, Bernie Sanders, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Elizabeth Warren have made it into the top tier of supported candidates despite the lack of discussion of them (in the context of Americans Elect) in blogs or on Twitter. Support for those possible presidential candidates is coming from somewhere else.