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More Americans Elect Vogon Democracy: to Reverse our Policies, Just Contact and Convince 10,000 Delegates We’ve Hidden From You and Who May Not Exist. You Have 48 Hours.

Is this what Democracy looks like?

Here’s an e-mail Americans Elect Policy Director Brian Findlay sent me late last night after I followed AE rules and formally moved to reverse its decision to allow as few as 5 people to fully fund Americans Elect:

From: Brian Findlay
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2012 10:18 PM
To: retorts@irregulartimes.com
Subject: Statement of petition

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.

Sincerely,

Brian Findlay
Policy Director
Americans Elect

That all sounds nice, and finally — after a period of non-compliance — Americans Elect is following its own rules for such reversals.

But is it democracy?

Notice the language:

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.

Two features jump out.

First, the Americans Elect website has indeed posted my statement along with instructions for delegates. But that’s all it’s done. It hasn’t sent out any messages to delegates letting them know about the motion, even though it has their e-mail addresses. And even though Americans Elect has a “News” section of its website, it hasn’t posted the news about a motion to be voted on there either. Americans Elect hasn’t sent a message to its delegates in any way.

Because Americans Elect hasn’t sent out any message to delegates, the delegates will have to somehow stumble across the motion. In order to find the motion, discover that it exists, and then take action, ten thousand delegates will all need to:

1) for some reason or other, decide all on their own that they want to visit the Americans Elect website within the next 48 hours;
2) further decide that they’d like to click on the “About” tab, even though if they’ve signed up and been verified as delegates they’ve kind of already passed the “About” stage;
3) beyond that, further decide that they’d like to click on the new “Board Decisions” tab for some reason;
4) then scroll down to the second decision, where they’ll read the needed text.

How likely is that, not just for one but for ten thousand delegates, all within the next 48 hours? Not likely at all. If Americans Elect is sincerely interested in giving delegates a chance to weigh in on the motion, it will have to affirmatively let delegates know that the motion exists. But Americans Elect hasn’t done that.

This is where we get to the second point. Instead of letting delegates know there’s a motion under consideration for them to vote on, it’s sent me an e-mail after starting the 48-hour period telling me that it’s my responsibility “to obtain the required support from Delegates.”

OK, I can handle responsibility. I’ve had a cat and a dog before. So let me get started here… by… um…

… contacting the delegates and obtaining their support. Wait a second. How do I do that?

There isn’t any e-mailing list for delegates that Americans Elect has shared with me. There isn’t a form on Americans Elect’s website for me to use to send out a message to delegates either. And even if I wanted to go try to find the delegates so I could somehow send them a message, I couldn’t even do that — because Americans Elect has hidden delegates’ contact information and refrained from creating a means for delegates to contact one another.

First of all, Americans Elect delegates’ profile settings are set to “Private” by default, so unless delegates choose otherwise there’s no way to me find their profile information at all:

Americans Elect sets its delegates profiles to Private by Default, meaning that other delegates can't find them.

That’s nice from a privacy point of view, actually, but if it’s my responsibility to get in touch with 10,000 delegates and rally support for my motion over the next 48 hours, then by golly it’ll be hard to find them when even their profiles are kept secret.

And what if a delegate happens to choose to make their profile “public”? Do I have a better chance of getting in touch with them then?

Nope. Go ahead: check out my profile page. I’ve made it public. Here’s what you’ll see today (click on the image for a full-screen view):

Americans Elect Profile Page for a Delegate, as of March 8 2012

There’s no way to contact a fellow delegate. None. Not even if they’ve made their profile public. Oh, there’s a very interesting looking graphic called “Caucus” on the upper-right, but it’s a grayed-out link. It doesn’t work. It’s “coming soon” (and remember, the candidate voting system was “coming soon” for months). “Coming soon” doesn’t do me any good. I’ve filed a motion already (which I had to do when I did because Americans Elect requires objection motions to be filed within 72 hours of any notice of an Americans Elect decision) and I need to be able to contact delegates today. Now.

It can’t be done.

For the second time in two days, I’m find myself feeling as though I’m speaking to a Vogon, the fictional species that blows up the Earth in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, explaining indignantly to protesting Earthlings that:

“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.”

More Vogon Democracy.  I'm supposed to rally 10,000 Americans Elect delegates to vote down a.  But Number 1, there's no evidence that 10,000 Americans Elect verified delegates actually exist, and Number 2, there's no way for me to get their contact information to let them know that my motion exists so they can join in the vote.  Americans Elect hasn't sent delegates a message about this vote, that's for sure.

Americans Elect has a nominally democratic process. I can, nominally, file a motion. Nominally, delegates can click a button on a website stuck away in the third level of a menu system to vote for my motion. But practically speaking, Americans Elect has hidden away the elements that are needed for people to assert their full, actual democratic role in this process. That’s Vogon.

P.S. I’m not even sure Americans Elect has 10,000 voter-registration-verified delegates. So I’ve written back to Brian Findlay to ask him for the information I need to play my part in this “democratic” process:

Brian,

Thanks for writing. In order to do what you’ve asked me to do, I’ll need:

1) A verification by you that there are actually 10,000 verified delegates. Are there actually 10,000 verified delegates?

2) A way to reach those delegates to let them know about this motion. Can you provide that, please?

Kind Regards,

Jim Cook

I haven’t heard back from Brian Findlay, but I’ll let you know if I do. I’ll also let you know at what hour in the process I hear back, whether that’s during the 48 hour period for me to contact the delegates and win their votes, or after the process is done and it’s too late.

If you don’t see any update here, you’ll know I haven’t heard back from Americans Elect at all.

19 comments to More Americans Elect Vogon Democracy: to Reverse our Policies, Just Contact and Convince 10,000 Delegates We’ve Hidden From You and Who May Not Exist. You Have 48 Hours.

  • P.S. Try to click on that “caucus” button and a pop-up link says it will be available “Starting in May.” That’s far, far, far, far too late for delegates to be able to communicate.

  • John Lumea

    Brilliant — but sad.

    This morning, I sent the following to:

    Peter Ackerman ,
    Kahlil Byrd ,
    Eliot Ackerman ,
    Josh Levine ,
    Brian Findlay ,
    Sarah Malm ,
    Ileana Wachtel ,
    “Americans Elect (Rules Committee)”

    None of the emails has bounced back.

    I’ve had no reply.

    : : : : : :

    Good morning.

    I’m an Americans Elect delegate — user 369310 — although I’ve been following Americans Elect for much longer than that number implies.

    I have a simple request.

    I’ve been following developments with the 20 February board decision originally posted on 2 March as a News item at AmericansElect.org and now labelled “Financial Support Policy Revised by Board” on the Web site’s Board Decisions page — including the various steps by which, with respect to this decision, the interface on the Board Decisions page eventually, yesterday afternoon, was brought into substantial compliance with the letter of Rule 12.2.

    Thanks for that.

    : : : : : :

    But a serious problem remains.

    My guess is that — apart from the relative handful of procedurally-minded delegates…

    (1) who are following the (still very new) Board Decisions page or

    (2) who may have learned about this particular board decision from the few third-party political Web sites that have covered it

    …most delegates, perhaps even the vast majority, still are completely oblivious to the developments related to the Board’s “20% ruling” on the financial support of Americans Elect.

    Surely, in order to ensure the integrity of the Reversal process, it is incumbent upon Americans Elect to find a way (e.g., email blast) to inform all delegates that there is a matter for their consideration — and to inform them not just when and if there are 10,000 “support clicks,” but at the outset of the process.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but — especially given Americans Elect’s relatively narrow 48-hour window for delegates initially to respond to another delegate’s reversal motion…

    Withholding from delegates the initial news of a “motion to reverse” could be seen as an effort to suppress dissent, so as to increase the odds that reversals of Board and Committee decisions never come to pass.

    Indeed, as the current number of “Oppose” clicks — seven, as of this writing — aptly illustrates: Nobody seriously believes that 10,000 “support clicks” will — or even could — emerge from the self-selecting pool of delegates whose interest in organizational process issues, in general, led them to the current reversal motion, in particular; but who otherwise — in common with the rest of their fellow delegates — would have little reason to know about (1) the delegate appeal that has been made re the Board’s 20% ruling and (2) their ability to influence this ruling.

    : : : : : :

    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 not until after there have been at least 10,000 delegate “support clicks” in favor of a motion to reverse.

    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.

    : : : : : :

    In that light, may I suggest the following:

    (1) Today (8 March) or tomorrow, send an email blast to all Americans Elect delegates that

    (a) informs them of both the Board’s 20 February ruling and the delegate motion to reverse the ruling;
    (b) explains Rule 12.2; and
    (c) directs them to where, on the Board Decisions page, they can learn more about the motion and, if they wish, support it by clicking “Oppose.”

    (2) Re-start the 48-hour clock from the time of the email blast.

    In thus enhancing its openness with, and responsiveness to, delegates, Americans Elect will build trust with delegates — and, equally important, with the American people in general.

    One way or another, the matter still will be resolved — or put on a path to a resolution — this weekend.

    And: It’s just the right thing to do.

    : : : : : :

    Finally, I suggest that — as a matter of Americans Elect policy, going forward — all Board and Committee decisions be communicated to delegates via an email blast that

    (1) articulates and explains both the decision(s) and Rule 12.2, and

    (2) provides an email address to which Statements / Motions of Reversal are to be sent (currently unavailable)

    and that, in each case, the blast be sent out concurrently with the decision(s) being posted at AmericansElect.org.

    Thanks and best regards,

    JOHN LUMEA

  • Thanks for posting this, John. Please let me know if you hear anything back.

  • Daniel H

    I am a fellow delegate and I tend to keep checking back here for the negativity. I myself email AE about concerns about the site. I am even the guy who asked Mr. Byrd to swear they won’t override the delegate winner. I like the persistence you show to AE telling them to pay attention. They probably should have put the reversal notice in the news or email the delegates the reversal opportunity. It might be too late but AE will listen and they will keep fixing this.

    BTW, fearing the worst does not mean it always WILL be the worst. Maybe only five people donated, maybe more (I swear I donated money to the org). But they can’t be forcing everyone to vote for a certain guy. None of the money is going to the candidates, none of the candidates are getting AE endorsement. David Walker? Not running and only 120 votes. The candidates with the most supports (Paul, Huntsman, Bloomberg) don’t even want to be a part of this org. And if they join the day before the caucus, well that is just a dick move. And I doubt Buddy Roemer is in on this scheme. Maybe I picked him because I think he has everything a president should be. And Roemer is such an honest man, he would tell the world if the Board wants him to do something for them.

    Anyway this is the most involved I have been in politics all my life, and I DO want this to work. So I will continue to keep AE alert about any complaints too. Maybe you’ll be the Batman of the AE delegates; fear the worst and be right all along.

    • I think it’s great that you’re getting engaged and involved.

      You say that Americans Elect “will keep fixing this.” There’s two problems with that as a reassurance:

      1. There are only 14 hours and 12 minutes left to my motion. Americans Elect hasn’t fixed it. One could say Americans Elect needs to be given the benefit of extra time to fix their issues. But they’re not giving my motion the benefit of extra time for the issue to be fixed. My motion — which has to do with the core issue of big money contributions to presidential elections — is about to expire, and there’s no way for me to tell the delegates about it. When the motion has expired, NO delegate will be able to appeal the decision.

      2. The time to work out the kinks and get everything figured out is not in the middle of a presidential nomination. As Elliot Ackerman pointed out last week on MSNBC TV, “voting has already started.”

  • Rick

    Sounds like this democratic procedure was modeled after the defunct regiemes of Eastern Europe. Chauchesku would be proud if he were still alive.
    The way their membership seems to be dropping off, I can’t help wondering how long before their headquarters begins to resemble the final days of Jonestown, Heavens Gate, or Mount Carmel.
    It is pretty clear that Ackerman is being overcharged for questionable results in this fiasco.
    Based on Ackerman’s business record, does anyone believe he would tolerate this level of high priced incompetence, unless it is by design.
    This still smells like a data mining operation for some future scam from the guy who walked away with the money when Michael Milken went to jail.
    Just my $0.02
    R.F.

  • Stephen Kent Gray

    Jim, when I click the link, it says “You have reached this page in error”. That’s what happens when I click your profile link.

    https://secure.americanselect.org/user/56048

    This is my link!

    • Your link doesn’t work either, Stephen.

      How interesting! It worked last night. Americans Elect must have changed the link structure to profile pages.

    • Figured it out. You have to be logged in as a delegate to see profiles.

      • Stephen Kent Gray

        Are you sure? I’m logged in and can see my profile and other public profiles when I click on the name of the delegate via the debate forum. I can also type in the link to my profile and see it, but if I copy a link to a delegate public profile and open a window, it leads to the error page.

        • Weird.

          By the way, this again points out just how hard it is to find any information on fellow delegates.

          And there’s still no way to contact them via their profile pages.

  • 5 hours 15 minutes left to go in a vote that Americans Elect delegates don’t know exists. As of right now,

    1) No message has gone out from Americans Elect letting delegates know there’s a matter for them to vote on

    2) No message has been posted in the “News” section, where one would presumably head for such news

    3) No means by which a delegate can him/herself get in touch with all the other delegates to let them know there’s a vote on the motion

    4) No response from Brian Findlay, the Policy Director of Americans Elect to whom I wrote

    Their skin may not be green, but the Vogons have arrived.

  • Joshua

    Is there anywhere on the AE web site where they provide an e-mail address to contact the organization, or a plain web-form to send them an e-mail, or even a postal address? Most web sites have a “contact us” link somewhere on the home page.

    • Along the far right-hand edge of every page, there is a “Feedback” tab — but this simply opens up the “Get Satisfaction” widget. It doesn’t provide any information or mechanism — whether a form or an email address — for direct contact, or accountability, of any specific named person or office at Americans Elect.

      On the right-hand side of the “About Us” page — about halfway down and a little further “inland” — there’s a graphic that reads “What’s on your mind? Ask us anything.” Clicking on “Ask us anything” opens up the same “Get Satisfaction” widget.

      Right below that graphic, however, there is a “Media Contact” button which directs to THIS FORM.

      Even though the ostensible audience for this form is “the media,” the only required fields are first name, last name, email address and message.

      Given the absence of any other options on the Web site for making direct contact, I see no reason not to — on the contrary, I see every reason to — avail ourselves of this form.

      • I just now successfully re-sent my letter via the media contact form — marked as “URGENT” and requiring immediate attention.

        I encourage others to use the same form.

        • Anonymous

          The form also can be accessed by clicking “About,” in the topmost navigation — then clicking “Media,” which is the rightmost link in the secondary navigation.

  • Lovely. With 3 minutes to go in the vote, Americans Elect went ahead and took away the vote button.

    They’ve erased any record of the vote count, too.

    See this screen capture, with time stamp:

    Talk about a “secret ballot.” To the vast majority of Americans Elect delegates, this really was a secret. Americans Elect got its desired result. What have I learned? That there won’t be any overturning of the decisions of the Americans Elect Corporate Board of Directors. Not on this issue, and I think not on any other.

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