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Americans Elect Race to the Nomination Ballot (3/10/12): Turtles all the way Down

Bill Busa, a frequent observer of Americans Elect with a critical eye for detail, has asked me to post the following graph and accompanying text he’s written about prospects for contenders to actually make the Americans Elect ballot in the nation’s first online privatized presidential nomination. I’m happy to oblige:

Americans Elect Corporation: Race to the Primary Ballot (Results as of March 10 2012)

Busa’s captioned commentary:

To advance to the first primary ballot, a candidate must attain either 1,000 or 5,000 “delegate” votes in each of ten states (1,000 for candidates with qualifications favored by Americans Elect’s Board of Directors, 5,000 for all others). To calculate the “Percent of required votes attained” shown here, a candidate’s current vote totals for each of his/her top ten states was expressed as a percentage of the per-state requirement (1,000 or 5,000), and these ten values were then averaged. The “On-Track Line” indicates that with 37% of the voting period completed, a candidate should have attained at least 37% of the required votes in order to be on-track to qualify for the primary ballot.

My thoughts on Busa’s contribution (thanks, Bill):

In the past, Americans Elect has surmounted the lack of popular excitement about Americans Elect by hiring paid signature gatherers. Given the lack of participation in the delegate vote for Americans Elect presidential contenders, one might suppose that a financially-endowed candidate might swoop in at this late stage in the process and hire more paid gatherers to sign people up and manage their vote.

I’m not sure such a move would be effective. In order to gain ballot access in various states, Americans Elect has only needed money (supplied by deep-pocketed hedge fund managers) to hire people to stand outside supermarkets and collect signatures. For the people who agree to sign ballot petitions, there’s only a 20 second commitment. But voting for a candidate requires a much deeper commitment. A person has to:

1. Head online
2. Create an account at Americans Elect, tethered to an e-mail account
3. Provide a variety of personal information, including name, address, date of birth and the last four digits of a social security number
4. Search for a candidate, and then vote.

Even if that process weren’t fraught with reluctance, it couldn’t be completed in a supermarket parking lot. And it turns out that the process is fraught with reluctance. Some people are complaining that the Americans Elect system won’t verify their status even though they’re required to vote. Others are refusing to fully register if that means sharing personal information that taken together could be used to carry out identity theft.

Big money won’t magically overcome these barriers, not with just a handful of weeks left to go in the process. For Americans Elect contenders to reach the needed threshold to make the ballot, there has to be an actual swell of grassroots support that is fervent enough to overcome these barriers to participation. As Busa’s graph demonstrates, that’s just not happening. In a race to obtain presidential ballot access, there are usually fast hares and slow turtles. In the case of Americans Elect, it’s turtles all the way down.

17 thoughts on “Americans Elect Race to the Nomination Ballot (3/10/12): Turtles all the way Down”

  1. John Lumea says:

    My guess is that AEHQ increasingly is coming to terms with the reality that the only way this has any chance of “working” for them is if a white knight (or knightess), in the form of a true political celebrity that passes the presidential “sniff test for a critical mass of people, throws his or her hat in the Americans Elect ring.

    That’s one reason I was focusing on Bloomberg a few weeks ago. I could be wrong, but I don’t see either Ron Paul or Buddy Roemer as being that person. Certainly, in Roemer’s case, I don’t see how anyone trying to run on a platform of campaign finance reform thinks they can do so credibly with Americans Elect.

    1. Bill says:

      John, that is indeed one of the questions of the hour: what on earth is Buddy Roemer thinking? No ‘reform’ candidate could possibly be taken seriously after being promoted by AECorp. His campaign would become all about AE’s dirty laundry, not about his platform. This has to be one of the main reasons why no other serious candidate has declared for AECorp (that, plus the fact that they know a third-party candidate can’t win).

      The other important question of the hour is: Why is AECorp’s member engagement so weak? The evidence is in the graph above…votes are coming in at a trickle…and also in the interesting (to me, at least) statistic that only 1.9% of AECorp’s 395,000 members register for its forum site (and far fewer actually use it). Americans Elect is one of those things, like Communism, that sound great on paper but once you see how it actually works all you can do is say “Ugh!”. AECorp’s patrician, plutocratic structure, its failure to ‘speak’ to members except in airy sound bites, and its by now well-publicized dominance by Titans of Finance all turn members off in droves. 395,000 people have signed up, but a high percentage aren’t coming back.

      Peter “Junk Bond” Ackerman learned a lot from his Unity08 debacle, and the lessons learned made Americans Elect Corporation a stronger effort. Will he again learn a lot from the developing failure which is Americans Elect, and incorporate those learnings? No, he won’t, because the lesson is that Peter Ackerman and his clubhouse cronies shouldn’t try to run a party. But since that’s exactly what they want to do, they are blind to that truth. So they’ll keep making asses of themselves for some time to come. This is very sad for all of us who really believe that internet-enabled democracy has something valuable to offer (when it’s not being gamed).

      1. Bill says:

        The best…and, indeed, the only…way to save Americans Elect, I believe, would be for Peter Ackerman to step down as chairman, and for the current self-appointed board to be replaced with a delegate-elected board.

        Alas, that ain’t gonna happen.

      2. Jim Cook says:

        Bill, $20 million sounds like a lot of money (and it is). But that’s roughly the cost to build one high school — in other words, not out of reach for a community that is large enough and that cares enough.

        What would happen if for 2016 a group formed that used the legal approach of Americans Elect to gain ballot access, but without the secrecy, without the elite dictatorial style, with transparency and with a strong charter of delegate rights?

        Don’t call it Americans’ Elect. Call it We All Elect.

        Could it work?

  2. Ralph says:

    My guess is they’re going to use this “declared candidate” status to do an end run around the required number of clicks for this process, and that they’ll say after the fact that the requirement to get clicks in ten states was a process for “draft candidates.”

    Have they said anything at all technically or procedurally about what it means to become a “declared candidate?” Looks to me like one of the distinctions, like “unanimous board decision,” that they invent as cover for knee-jerk arbitrary actions. Unless, of course, they’re just so tired of failing as king makers that they just need an excuse to pack things up for 2012.

    1. Joshua says:

      Ralph: The AE rules provide the exact same support-click requirements whether a candidate is declared or drafted. See for links to the rules; the documents to look for are the 02.03.12 “Proposed Amendments to the Pre-election Convention Rules” and the 12.22.11 “Rules.” The Proposed Amendments have the same support-click requirements as the Rules, except that the Proposed Amendments change the schedule so that candidates have about a month longer to achieve the minimum support-clicks. The Proposed Amendments have not apparently been ratified by the board of directors, although I’m not sure what is delaying them from doing so.

      If we’re thinking about how the AE board of directors could manipulate the rules to get, say, Buddy Roemer nominated, my guess would be that they would have to change the rules to lower the support-click requirement to, say, 400 total, with no 10-state requirement (and apply that to all candidates, whether insiders or outsiders). That would probably be few enough to take in Buddy Roemer (who already has over 1,000), Laurence Kotlikoff and Michealene Risley (the two other declared candidates who currently have over 200). It would also include about a dozen more famous people as draft candidates.

      So, in that case, they would go through the primary rounds, and narrow the qualifiers down to six. It’s likely that most of those candidates would be people such as Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Bernie Sanders, and Barack Obama who would decline to participate in the AE nomination rounds. The AE rules already provide that if a candidate drops out after the primary rounds, they will be replaced by the next-highest vote recipient. Thus, Roemer, Kotlikoff, and Risley would most likely wind up as the only three candidates to qualify for the nominating ballots, and presumably Roemer would win.

      So that’s my speculation. I can’t even say it would be that bad if AE did that, as long as they conducted the election fairly and allowed Kotlikoff or Risley to be the nominee if they wound up defeating Roemer. At least this way, AE supporters would wind up having a presidential ticket, rather than having all this effort go for nothing.

  3. John Hain says:

    The American electorate is strongly conditioned to being herded by loud voices of fear and insecurity. Americans Elect is simply a process that has not been given any great attention, despite the fact that it is potentially game-changing. Why? I have a Google alert for online references to Americans Elect, and it averages about one new article per day. That means that 99.9+% of election related news and opinion is focused on the dominant theatrical drama perpetuated by the traditional Rep v. Dem warfare, all the while being exploited by commercial sponsors. When a revolutionary approach to shifting the political power away from parties back to individual voters is repeatedly ignored in favor of the most outrageous or controversial daily soundbite (that reflects the dysfunction of the current party-centered system) then our fate is no longer in our hands, it is in the hands of dominant media outlets and their corporate sponsors. Unless one of the most popular political figures running for President decides to put the people ahead of party by declaring his/her Presidential candidacy through AE, thus bringing along a groundswell of new member-delegates, then AE may lose its chance to be a game changer in 2012. There is no doubt that the major political powers will do all in their power to subvert, discredit, or obstruct any possibility for revolutionary change that puts the interests of individual voters first.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Mr. Hain, how are you enjoying the Americans Elect Rapid Response Team experience?

      Every single major news media outlet — from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Boston Globe to the Philadelphia Inquirer to the Los Angeles Times to the Dallas Morning News to the Christian Science Monitor to the Chicago Tribune to MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS — has provided public exposure for Americans Elect, each of them multiple times.

      It’s not that there’s a media conspiracy to not tell people about Americans Elect. It’s that people aren’t interested, or don’t like what they see when they go take a look.

      1. John Hain says:

        I beg to differ, but virtually no one I encounter in conversation has ever heard of AE. Articles about it are truly rare, compared with the other hype, and not “front page” stuff.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          You can’t beg to differ with the facts, John. Or, rather, you can, but you’d be wrong. All of the above major media outlets have featured newspaper articles or dedicated TV time to Americans Elect, all of them repeatedly.

  4. John Lumea says:

    I can’t help but find it amusing that the patron saints of Americans Elect and No Labels — Messrs. Simpson and Bowles — currently are clocking in at 31 and 15 supporters, respectively.

  5. Bill says:

    John Hain, I’m amused (and a little troubled) by your characterization of Americans Elect Corporation as “…a revolutionary approach to shifting the political power away from parties back to individual voters….”.

    From its reservation to its Board of Directors of “extraordinary power and authority to take or compel any action”, to its refusal to systematically inform all delegates of ongoing voting via a ‘push’ medium such as email, to its two different sets of goalposts for the qualification of candidates with credentials the Board of Directors likes and those whose qualifications they don’t like, to its manipulative display of candidates to insure that those who play ball…who declare for Americans Elect…get top billing (thus enjoying the enormous advantage of top-of-page listing), Americans Elect Corporation consistently shows us that it is, in fact, a revolutionary approach to shifting political power from delegates to plutocrats.

    That is why you find too few positive references to Americans Elect Corporation in the intertubes. Because people, generally speaking, aren’t complete idiots, and many, many people have awakened to the fact that Americans Elect Corporation is a carefully crafted shell game designed with only one goal in mind: to buy a place on the ballot for whatever candidate Peter “Junk Bond” Ackerman takes a liking to, and to disguise the effort as some kind of grassroots democracy. It’s hard to decide which is more offensive: the cynicism of this scheme, or the utter contempt for the ‘little people’ Ackerman displays by not even hiding his scheme a little better.

    I reiterate that there is only one way to save Americans Elect: “Junk” Ackerman and his buddies/toadies must step down, and be replaced by a Board democratically elected by AE delegates (followed immediately by a convention to draft completely new bylaws and convention rules). Otherwise, AECorp will suffer the fate it today so richly deserves…a minor footnote in history. There is no way to employ autocracy to promote democracy.

  6. Rick says:

    No way to get rid of Ackerman after the money he has flushed down this toilet of arrogance and incompetence, and I’m sure it won’t end here.
    Where is the “Occupy Movement” when we need them?
    The weather in Carlsbad, CA is beautiful this time of year, and I’m sure Arno’s business neighbors and Homeowner Association would welcome a campground with open arms.
    After all, Americans Elect claims to be the “party of the people” ,Arno calims to be “the circulators’ friend” and Ackerman claims to give a s**t about “the public good”.
    Ackerman’s lawn doesn’t have the great weather, but would do in a pinch, if the “Occupy Movement” didn’t find themselves welcome in Carlsbad.
    If I were Ackerman, it wouldn’t make me comfortable to know the only thing between me and an unpaid angry mob was a coward like Mike Arno.
    This seems to be a dangerous game, considering this economy, they have chosen to play.
    Fun to watch , though.

  7. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    There’s no asterisk next to Rocky Anderson on the chart. It needs to be updates as he is a recently declared candidate. Any draft candidate who goes through the process of becoming a delegate can declare themselves.

  8. Chris Stegman says:

    22 million is small change. Obama’s raised $165 million, Ron Paul $35 million, etc. The primary voting doesn’t start until May 8th. There are over 410,000 registered voters who are taking part. There is not that much publicity. Roehmer and Anderson are in 1st and 2nd in the ‘supporters’ column which has nothing to do with how the votes come down. The rest of the declared are total unknowns. NONE of the draft candidates themselves have said they would accept a nomination if they qualified.
    It’s a very simplistic and rather closed process so I’m not optimistic that either Roehmer or Anderson could be one or both of the top two vote getters. Current supporters has little to do with the overall voters in the primary since there is no way of knowing how the 90% who have not weighed in will vote.

    1. Jim says:

      Chris, there aren’t 410,000 registered voters taking part… unless by “taking part” you mean visited the website. Count the votes in the current ballot access round of voting and you’ll see tha the total is much, much lower.

      As for news coverage, what about multiple mentions in every national newspaper, plus interviews of every TV and cable news network, some over and over again?

      Americans Elect had the major media mentions to help kick it off. People just aren’t all that into it.

    2. Joshua says:

      Chris, the problem is that AE won’t even be able to start the primary voting process on May 8 because, at their current pace and under current rules, none of the candidates will have achieved the 1,000 supporters in each of 10 states (or 5,000 x 10 for “outsider” candidates) by then. I don’t think any of them are even on pace to qualify by election day in November.

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