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:
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.