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Vogon Democracy, Revised: Americans Elect Violates Rules, Then Fixes the Problem

Update, March 8 2012: More Vogon Democracy

Update, March 7 2012: Americans Elect has responded, fixing its violation of Rule 12.2…

… by posting an update with a link to the motion:

I am glad to see Americans Elect move into greater compliance with its Rules.

It would be helpful if Americans Elect now posted the text of its own decisions, and not just short summaries, because the devil’s in the details, don’t you know.

The remainder of this post is preserved as a record of the problem.

They want to count the votes in their own presidential nomination, but they can’t seem to follow their own rules.

Reversal Motions: The Rules
The first-ever online privatized presidential nomination in the history of our nation, Americans Elect, has a set of Official Rules that govern how it is to treat dissenting Delegates:

12.2 Reversal Votes. Unless otherwise expressly provided, any Delegate who wishes to reverse any decision of any Committee or Board may do so by sending a statement of 500 words or less by email to the Board within 72 hours after notice of any decision is posted on the Website. The Board shall then post the statement on the Website with instructions that any Delegate who agrees with reversal shall “Support Click” the statement. If 10,000 or more Delegates Support Click the statement within 48 hours after its posting, the Board shall give three days’ notice to all Delegates of a reversal vote and post a statement of no more than 500 words in support of the decision and the statement in opposition to the decision on the Website after such notice. If a majority of all registered Delegates vote in favor of reversal, the decision shall be reversed and the Committee or Board shall make a different decision. This process of Reversal Votes shall be the sole and exclusive remedy for any Delegate aggrieved by any action, conduct, or failure to act of Americans Elect.

As you can read here, I have submitted a formal motion for delegate reversal of an Americans Elect decision — one that follows all the stipulations of Rule 12.2. Read the text of the motion for yourself.

Reversal Motion: What Americans Elect Has Done
Americans Elect has failed to post my statement, as required by Rule 12.2 and as personally promised by CEO Kahlil Byrd in a conversation I had with him yesterday. Instead, all Americans Elect has posted is this:

Americans Elect Rule 12.2 Violation

The text of the statement moving to reverse has not been posted, as clearly required by Rule 12.2 and as clearly promised by CEO Kahlil Byrd just yesterday. There’s no link to the text of the reversal motion. Not on that Americans Elect page. Not on any Americans Elect page. All you can do is click a button marked “Oppose,” if you oppose… what? The vague description of the policy change made by Americans Elect, without any link for you to read the text of that change either? Yep, that’s it. Without reading the statement declaring why you should oppose it? Yep, that’s it.

Americans Elect Vogon: We clearly posted notice of your motion in our filing cabinet on Alpha Centauri!

This is not a de minimus violation of the Americans Elect Rules, and its not just about the Rules. It’s about Americans Elect’s pledge that delegates would be full and meaningful participants in the process. There is no way for delegates to figure out whether or why they would want to “Support Click” the reversal statement I have filed if the reversal statement is not posted. Heck, the original Americans Elect decision itself hasn’t been posted. There is no real and meaningful way for Americans Elect delegates to participate in decision-making regarding the Rules if the actual text of changes to the rules aren’t posted, and if the actual text of motions to oppose those changes aren’t posted. These are Vogon tactics:

There’s no point acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now.

Americans Elect promised me personally it would put up the text of the motion. But more important than that, it promised you it would. It promised that you would be a full and meaningful participant in a democratic process allowing informed dissent. It made that promise when it published Rule 12.2. It made the promise that you would be able to participate when it wrote and publicized Bylaw 2.3, which declares:

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 made a pledge to you when it sent out flashy promotional material declaring that you, the American Citizen, were Americans Elect’s “true boss”:

The Delegates — and the rest of the American people — are the true boss of Americans Elect.

This is not what democracy looks like. If this bothers you, please spread the word.

36 thoughts on “Vogon Democracy, Revised: Americans Elect Violates Rules, Then Fixes the Problem”

  1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    So will you just ask people to click oppose?

    Doesn’t that you imply that you are for the opposite of what you’re opposing ie the absence of a mechanism that allows someone to be an over 20% donor?

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Well, Stephen, funny you should ask…

      … because since you can’t read the text of the motion on Americans Elect you wouldn’t know why. That’s the point of this post. It’s why Americans Elect ought to keep its promise, abide by its own Rules, and post the text of the gol-darned motion. Americans Elect is obstructing meaningful democratic participation with its obstinate obfuscation.

      Fortunately, I post at this website, so you can read the text of my motion on Irregular Times to know why I’m opposing Americans Elect’s decision and formally calling for reversal.

      Why? In one phrase: because this clause allows just five people to wholly fund Americans Elect.

      The 500-word motion calls on the board to go back to work and make a new decision (as Rule 12.2 requires the board to do upon reversal) that makes the allowable portion much smaller.

  2. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    I opposed because I read the other article with A, B, and C reasoning!

    1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

      I opposed it because there a whole list of complications it imposes. Will Americans Elect get money out of thin air to dilute it donor amounts due to the limits?

  3. John Lumea says:

    Hear, hear! — and there are more questions…

    The text of the Board’s ruling that went up this morning on the Board Decisions page, under the headline Financial Support Policy Revised By Board, reads:

    The Board of Directors voted unanimously on 20 February 2012 to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of the Americans Elect budget.

    Notably absent from this text is the elaboration that appeared in the original 2 March notice of the ruling that appeared in the News section (emphasis mine):

    The Americans Elect Board unanimously voted to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of AE’s budget. In the event that any one supporter exceeds that percentage, there are provisions created to expedite repayments to that supporter.

    So, did the Board “revise its revision”? Did it revisit and change the “unanimous” 20 February ruling that originally was reported in the News section? Does the “Board Decisions version” of the ruling supersede the “News version.”

    Or does the longer, “News version” of the decision stand — in which case, the discontinuity between the “News version” and the “Board Decisions version” begs the question of whether Americans Elect is using an abridged “Board Decisions version” to sweep under the carpet the “provisions created to expedite repayments” to any supporter whose financial contribution exceeds 20% of the Americans Elect budget, in hopes that no one will notice?

    And, if these “provisions” remain in place, well: What are they?

    Also: It seems worth mentioning that it is within the power of Americans Elect to email all delegates with notice of Board decisions that have been posted — so that delegates can be fully empowered to register their opposition.

    As it is, Americans Elect has posted this new Board ruling as quietly as possible — the filing cabinet on Alpha Centauri, to borrow Jim’s devastating riff — with the result that the only delegates who have any possibility of formally opposing the ruling are those who just happen to wander by the Board Decisions page of the Web site or those who hear about the opportunity secondhand from someone, like Jim Cook, who is paying attention..

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Thanks for the additional information, John — it’s valuable.

      1. John Lumea says:

        Thanks, Jim — it’s good to get as much info as possible, related to this issue, under the same headline.

  4. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    What with the circle that represents percentage of opposers? It look at about fourth full (25%) with 3 opposers, so are 12 opposers needed?

  5. Joshua says:

    “Heck, the original Americans Elect decision itself hasn’t been tested.”

    That should probably say “posted” instead of “tested.”

    1. John Lumea says:

      This goes to my point that Americans Elect posted the original decision under News — where, to my knowledge, it never before had posted Board decisions — thus no one was looking there for these decisions.

      And then, within a couple of days, Americans Elect created this new Board Decisions page — which made it even less likely that anyone paying attention was going to look for Board decisions under News.

    2. Jim Cook says:


      Thanks as always for finding typos. Fixed.

  6. Bill says:

    Jim, they have now added a link to your petition to the post.

    I propose that we should all click the ‘Oppose’ button, even if you don’t actually oppose the Board’s decision. This is our first opportunity to test how AECorp handles actual votes. We owe it to the corporation, and to our Dear Leader, to stress-test the system for them.

    OPPOSE THE DECISION! Hurry, your right to oppose expires 1:51 PM on March 9. Tweet the bejeebers out of this, let’s turn out the vote!

    1. Jim Cook says:


      I’m actually interested in seeing the results as an indication of how many people are actually participating in the Americans Elect process. It’s an indication of how reasonable it is to think that in natural grassroots fashion 10,000 delegates a) actually exist, and b) would actually turn up to vote on anything. I don’t think we’ll see more than 100, and if I had to pick a number of Oppose votes, I’d actually guess… hmm…


      1. Bill says:

        So long and thanks for Buddy Roemer.

      2. John Lumea says:

        Well, Jim, there are 22 minutes left and we’re up to 13 clicks.

        Care to revise your initial overly optimistic projection?

        1. Jim Cook says:

          I guess the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything is 13. 😉

        2. John Lumea says:

          How odd, though, that this one decision now is marked as “Approved” — rather than “Adopted,” like all the rest.

          Is the implication meant to be that delegates had an opportunity to oppose it — they didn’t — and that therefore, by default, they — the delegates — “approved” it?

          1. Jim Cook says:

            Yes, that appears to be the implication.


        3. John Lumea says:

          Those crazy Vogons — they’re a riot!

    2. Bill says:

      Curiouser and curiouser. The page now shows that the deadline for opposition is 9 PM on March 9, whereas a couple of hours ago it showed it as 1:51 PM. I guess time is a flexible notion in AELand.

      1. Jim Cook says:

        Would you believe it? Brian Findlay, Americans Elect Policy Director, just wrote to me:

        “Dear Mr. Cook,

        “Thank you for initiating a request for Delegate reversal of a Board decision pursuant to Americans Elect Pre-election Convention Rule 12.2. Your request for reversal of the Board’s decision submitted on Friday, 2 March 2012 regarding the proportion of supporter funding is timely and in order for consideration. Accordingly, the Website has posted your statement along with instructions that any Delegate who wishes to initiate a reversal vote should support your statement. You will have 48 hours to obtain the required support from Delegates upon the posting. [The 48-hour window started at 9pm EST today, after I verified that the Board decision was posted in its entirety and your statement of petition was available for Delegates to view.] If enough Delegates support your request, we will proceed with a reversal vote as required by the Rules.


        “Brian Findlay
        “Policy Director
        “Americans Elect”

        1. John Lumea says:

          Great — although I do note the following (emphasis mine):

          You will have 48 hours to obtain the required support from Delegates upon the posting.

          In other words: Beyond the minimum of posting this information to, we, Americans Elect, don’t entertain any additional responsibility to let delegates know about this. It’s all on you. So good luck with that.

        2. Jim says:

          Right — this is a dysfunction we’ve been predicting since the rules came out.

  7. John Lumea says:

    I understand that Rule 12.2 doesn’t explicitly require that Americans Elect provide delegates with initial notice that one of their fellow delegates has filed a motion to reverse a Committee or Board decision. The first mention that 12.2 makes of its obligation to give notice to delegates is after there have been at least 10,000 delegate “support clicks” in favor of a motion to reverse,

    But how are most delegates to know that there is any motion to consider and anything to click — or not — unless they hear it first from Americans Elect? Isn’t an initial delegate email blast from Americans Elect the minimum requited to ensure that all delegates have — at the same time — the opportunity to learn about, and respond to, the issue? And isn’t such universal notification of delegates what is required to give the entire reversal process outlined in 12.2 any integrity?

    Otherwise, the pool of participants is limited to whichever delegates happen to wander by the Board Decisions page or read about the issue here. Which makes the whole thing a bit of a farce, does it not?

    If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? In this case, it appears that Americans Elect is doing everything in its power to muffle the sound of the falling tree.

    But the truth is, organizations can — and do — put into practice all sorts of things that are not spelled out in “the Rules.” They do so because those practices express the ethic embodied in the Rules.

    My appeal to Americans Elect: The initial 48-hour window in 12.2 is fine. But don’t start the clock until after you’ve told all the delegates that there is something new for them to consider.

    1. Bill says:

      The sensible thing for them to do would be to email a notification to all delegates informing them that a matter exists requiring a vote. But that’s just crazy-talk. It would require an organization with, like, internet-enabled systems to promote voting. Where on earth would we find something like that?

      Oh. Wait a minute….

  8. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    What would an opposition vote of 10,000 votes actually do. If the decision is overturned, won’t Americans Elect basically have an unlimited donation system like Super PACs.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      See Rule 12.2, Stephen. They’re required to go back and rewrite the rule. It’s a “try again” system.

      But that’s all hypothetical. As predicted here, the number of delegates who are paying attention to pages on the Americans Elect website is too small to get anywhere close to a hundred, and nowhere even close to close to 10,000.

      None of the decisions of Americans Elect’s corporate Board of Directors are going to be overturned.

      1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

        I must point out that statistically a 1 or a 0 is impossible. While the odds of 10,000 opposing anything are close to nil, they will never actually be nil no matter how much they approach nil.

      2. Stephen Kent Gray says:

        Yes, they could try again if they want, but that assumes they want to try again. They could say we tried and we failed so we won’t try again!

  9. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    I find it weird that while there are lots of articles on Americans Elect, Americans Elect Watch hasn’t been updated in forever!

    1. Joshua says:

      What’s Americans Elect Watch? I haven’t seen that site.

      1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

        It hasn’t been updated since July 2011!

    2. Jim Cook says:

      Americans Elect Watch is a static page I set up when Americans Elect wasn’t doing much. Now there’s so much going on I just can’t update it feasibly. Not because I don’t want to but because I just don’t have the time to keep up as one person.

      Stephen, if you’d like to do that work you’re welcome to save the page, edit it on your own and upload it to your own server. Have at it!

  10. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    Notice the Why I Gave section, it says at least 10 donors gave in the last day. They don’t have a shortage of donors.

    1. John Lumea says:

      No doubt, at some point, many of those donors will be saying:


    2. Jim Cook says:

      That little PR RSS feed doesn’t say anything useful on donors, actually. It doesn’t provide full names, professions, employers, or amounts of dollars. It doesn’t provide any information that is verifiable. You have no idea who they are. You have no idea where they live. You have no idea that they actually exist. And you only get to look at the first name of the last ten people who gave, with no way to recover earlier data. Don’t expect me to respect that little feed or to treat it seriously.

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