Washington Lots of people complain about the shortcomings of the country’s two-party system for picking a president. Now a nonpartisan group is gathering millions of petition signatures — and dollars — to offer people a Plan B.
Americans Elect, which grew out of a failed 2008 effort to provide an alternative in the presidential race, aims to secure a slot on the November ballot in all 50 states for a to-be-determined candidate who would be nominated in the nation’s first online convention next summer.
The group, whose backers include both Republicans and Democrats anxious to open up the political process, has raised $22 million so far and secured ballot slots in Florida, Alaska, Nevada, Kansas, Arizona and Michigan. It has submitted signatures for certification in California, Utah and Hawaii.
Americans Elect, whose slogan is “pick a president, not a party,” appears to be on track to secure ballot access across the country, with 1.9 million signatures collected so far. But how it will affect the 2012 race depends on what kind of candidate its delegates select in next June’s online convention, which will be open to any registered voter.
“It’s a fascinating experiment in trying to empower the disenfranchised center in American politics,” says Will Marshall, one of the group’s leaders and the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank. “It uses the power of the Internet and social media to provide a new means for political participation.”
Americans Elect rejects the notion its candidate could turn out to be a spoiler and says that putting the choice in the hands — or clicks — of millions of registered voters will ensure the selection of a qualified nominee. Leading candidates for the group’s nomination will be required to choose a running mate who is not from their own party to ensure political balance, it says.