Americans Elect has pushed the vote total in its first-ever completed vote down its servers’ memory hole, no longer to be seen by the public.
Why did Americans Elect erase the vote tally? Because it might prove difficult to explain how it’s consistent with vibrant democracy at Americans Elect.
The vote total for this multi-million dollar hedge-fund backed 501c4 corporation: 13 votes.
There are no missing zeros in that total: 13 votes. A baker’s dozen. From across the entire nation, that’s about as many people as sat down at your Aunt Gertie’s Thanksgiving dinner table.
Last month, Americans Elect jumped on the fact that “Florida’s turnout was a near disaster: down almost 15%” from 2008 levels to 11.5%. If 11.5% was a “near disaster,” what does that make the turnout for Americans Elect’s first vote?
To calculate turnout, you need to know the number of possible voters, which in this case would be the number of delegates. Americans Elect keeps the number of delegates a secret, one of many secrets it keeps from the American public and its own delegates, so I can’t share with you the actual voter turnout statistic. But I can tell you its maximum value, because under the Americans Elect Rules for this vote, the vote would result in success if 10,000 registered and identity-verified delegates voted for it. Surely Americans Elect would not allow a vote to be held with a standard for success that is unattainable, surely, so that means there must be at least 10,000 registered and verified delegates. 13 divided by 10,000 is 0.0013, or 0.13%. The highest possible delegate turnout for Americans Elect’s first completed vote is 0.13%. By Americans Elect’s own standards, that’s a “disaster.”
Why was Americans Elect turnout so low? Because Americans Elect suppressed the vote. No violation of the law occurred, but the vote was suppressed in a number of ways.
Americans Elect suppressed turnout by limiting the time frame for delegates to find out about, react to, and complete a vote. Delegates had just 72 hours to find posted notice of a decision on a web page by navigating through three levels of links on the Americans Elect home page, then read the notice, decide what to do, and file a motion by sending an e-mail message to a board of directors that doesn’t actually publicize its e-mail address. From that point, delegates had only 48 hours to find out that a vote on the motion existed (nestled under three levels of links), read the motion (nestled under four levels of links) and vote on it.
Americans Elect suppressed the vote by refusing to send delegates a message letting them know that a vote was taking place. It would have been as easy as sending out an e-mail message to their subscription list. Americans Elect didn’t do that. Americans Elect could have posted a notice of the vote in its section of “News” releases. It didn’t do that.
Americans Elect suppressed the vote by refusing to provide any means (e-mail, contact form, etc.) for delegates to take the initiative and contact one another with information about the vote. Even if a delegate organizer wanted to try to go through 10,000 individual delegate profiles in the space of 48 hours and individually communicate with each other delegate, letting them know about the vote, it wouldn’t be possible — because a delegate’s profile contains no way to contact that delegate.
Americans Elect suppressed the vote by publishing the text of the motion in a special pdf format that can’t be indexed by search engines. This is a format different than the pdf format Americans Elect uses to publish its own rules and bylaws. Delegates can’t even discover the motion to be voted on by a Bing or Ixquick or Google search.
Think about that: Americans Elect says it’s the solution for a broken political system, but it’s acting in ways that prevent its own delegates from voting. Under these multiple layers of vote suppression, there’s no way that any delegate motion will reach 10,000 votes. Delegate dissent under Americans Elect has been demonstrated to be impossible, practically speaking.
“So what?” you might reply. “It’s Americans Elect’s own system; they set the rules and people should live with that. It’s a kind of voting practice that’s common in corporate governance. Besides, it’s not like the Americans Elect candidate is going to win the presidential race anyway.”
But that’s the point. This is not a process that belongs to the American people. It belongs to a 501c4 corporation called Americans Elect. Americans Elect is trying to turn our democratic model into a system of corporate-style power-play voting. And no, the Americans Elect candidate probably won’t win the presidential election (although the corporation is planning in detail to broker the presidency if they can win just one state). But their plans are bigger than the presidency. The Americans Elect corporation plans to insert its corporate process into elections for “governor, senator, congress, and below,” according to its Chief Executive Officer, Kahlil Byrd:
kate_aloft: What role to you expect AE to have post election?
KahlilByrd: One of our core missions is to get on the ballot nationwide in 2012. We fully expect to continue to be on the ballot in 2013, 2014, and 2016. In ’13, we’ll go beyond the presidential campaign and focus on state level efforts. We hope this will yield candidates for governor, senator, congress, and below. This will be one of the most exciting phases of the next chapter of our work.
If Americans Elect gets its way, this is how votes will be held in the future for all sorts of elective offices. Are you comfortable with that?