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After Presidential Draft Candidate System Debuts, Who’s Talking About Americans Elect and How?

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.

Twitter posts about Americans Elect from January 31 to February 5 2012

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:

Joint Mentions of "Americans Elect" and presidential draft candidates, 1-31 to 2-6 2012, on Twitter and in google-indexed Blogs

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.

6 comments to After Presidential Draft Candidate System Debuts, Who’s Talking About Americans Elect and How?

  • John Lumea

    Thanks, Jim.

    Starting an American Elect “draft committee” appears to be an elaborate form of Facebook “liking.” Of the 152 current “draft candidates,” nearly a quarter — 36 — list only one supporter. Many list very few more supporters than that. But most of the so-called “draft committees” list only one person as the “draft leader.” Even the nine listed “draft leaders” for Ron Paul are identified as though they were nothing more than an assembly of the leaders of various state and local “draft Paul” groups.

    As with the rest of Americans Elect, the complete lack of transparency about these “draft committees” is a shocking insult to the democracy that Americans Elect claims to be trying to help repair with this project.

    At the very least, Americans Elect should require that any draft committee should provide evidence that it is an actual — national — draft committee. And Americans Elect should disclose this evidence on the page of each draft candidate, in the form of (1) the legally registered name of the committee; (2) a list, including biographical profiles, of (a minimum of three) officers of the committee; (3) the state of incorporation of the committee; and (4) full contact information, including street address and telephone number.

    These, surely, are the contours of a serious draft committee for the office of President of the United States.

    Instead, judging from its Web site, Americans Elect requires only a single name and an email address.

    Quite pathetic, really.

    • Joshua

      I disagree with the idea that the AE “draft committees” should be required to be legally registered, have multiple officers, etc. So far, it looks like all these draft committees are doing is typing a couple of sentences on a web site in favor of getting their preferred candidate to run for president. And looking at the AE rules, the draft committees don’t have much more of a role beyond that, except to (a) prepare a biography for their candidate of 1,500 words or less, and (b) provide contact information.

      If I understand the FEC rules, which is not guaranteed, these draft committees would have to register and disclose their income and expenses if they raise or spend $1,000 this year. But some of these draft committees are probably not even going to raise or spend $1 to support their candidate’s AE draft campaign. I don’t think that putting additional burdens on such draft committees would provide a significant benefit.

    • I agree with John’s assessment of the lack of support behind most of the Americans Elect draft candidates, but I’m with Joshua on that last point. I actually think it’s a really cool feature of the Americans Elect system that a person hypothetically could ride a wave of popular support onto the ballot without having a formal organization with officers and all. That’s what seems to be driving support for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, all of whom are in the top 10 draft candidates without an official committee beating the drum.

      • John Lumea

        Perhaps incorporation is too high a bar.

        But it seems to me too *low* a bar, for Americans Elect to allow every person who is willing to click a few buttons and make public nothing more than their name and email address to call themselves a “draft committee.”

        One of the first things a citizen rightfully wants to know about a presidential campaign — draft or otherwise — is not only “Who’s the candidate?” but “Who’s behind it?” Who’s behind the campaign?

        To borrow Joshua’s word, I don’t think it places an undue “burden” on any group expecting to be taken seriously as a draft committee, to require that that group demonstrate a minimal level of transparency and organizational seriousness, along the following lines: a list of 3-5 committee leaders, including bios; and full traceable contact information, including a P.O. box, a phone number, and an email address.

        This would provide at least a modicum of evidence that 3-5 people had persuaded one another to act together in a public way, to promote a candidate — and that they were willing to pool $100 a month to do so.

        A lone enthusiast who is unable or unwilling to clear those bars of organization and transparency should not, in my view, get to call him- or herself a draft “committee.”

        To be fair, it may well be that some — even many — of the individuals listed as “draft leaders” are leading actual committees. But if Americans Elect is the citizen empowerment project that it claims to be — and information being a key to power — then Americans Elect should use its Web site to provide citizens with a fuller picture these committees, so that citizens can make more informed decisions about which Americans Elect candidate(s) they might wish to support..

  • Rick

    Doesn’t sound like anything close to secure to me. Looks more like a lot of window dressing, with a preordained result. Of course ‘Arno lying and Ackerman swearing to it’ is probably good enough, by their standards (whatever those may be).

  • Stephen Kent Gray

    https://twitter.com/#!/jenn_56

    I favorited and retweeted her tweets to get more Ron Paul on Twitter!

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