New ‘online’ convention could shake up American politics

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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The new political group “Americans Elect” has quietly been collecting signatures needed for to get on statewide ballots in the 2012 general elections. But the group doesn’t plan to run a candidate, and it doesn’t have a platform or an ideology.

“This isn’t a third party,” Elliot Ackerman, the group’s chief operating officer, tells the Daily Beast. “It’s a second process.”

Americans Elect is endorsing an entirely new political process, and here’s how the whole thing goes: All registered voters are invited to participate in a two-week online convention in June 2012. Voters will fill out questionnaires and will be able to see a list of candidates who share their policy positions.

All online, a party platform will be drafted, and the field of candidates will be narrowed down to six. Each of those six will choose a running mate — from a different party.

Finally, voters registered at AmericansElect.org will choose one of the tickets, and those candidates will take over the ballot line secured with signatures by the group.

Sound complicated? It seems that way. But Americans Elect believes Americans will support it. Recent polls find U.S. voters are disenchanted with both Democrats and Republicans. A large majority of independents, 68 percent, support the creation of a third party.

The Daily Beast compares the movement led by Americans Elect to the Egyptian revolution carried out on Facebook: The group is using online media to spark a movement without a leader. (Poll finds Americans angry about pretty much everything)

The group has strong financial backing. So far, about 50 donors have loaned $20 million to the cause, and they’ll be repaid if the group raises enough money in smaller contributions. Americans Elect plans to accept donations of up to $10,000, and to refuse money from political action committees and interest groups.

Its members come from different political parties and backgrounds, including a former communications director for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democratic pollster, CEOs and college professors — all with the common goal of attracting disenchanted centrists to challenge the Washington status quo.

Americans Elect has collected enough signatures to get a ballot line in eight states, including Michigan and Missouri. It plans to submit an astounding 1.6 million signatures in California.