Politics as usual could be changing thanks to Americans Elect, an organization whose goal is to create the first nonpartisan presidential nomination directly elected by the people.
Americans Elect is using the Internet to allow citizens to vote for the issues they deem most important and eventually choose a directly elected presidential and vice presidential candidate for the 2012 elections. The group is trying to gain ballot access in all 50 states.
“With Americans Elect, you have the power to choose leadership that puts country before party, and America’s interests before special interests,” the Americans Elect homepage noted. “You have the power to help break gridlock and change politics as usual.”
Over 1.7 million Americans in over a dozen states have already signed petitions in support of giving the organization ballot access, according to an Americans Elect press release.
The group began its petition to qualify as a party in California in March. By July, 1.6 million people signed the petition.
But obtaining ballot access in all 50 states will be a challenge, said Kristy Michaud, CSUN political science professor. Most states require a specific number of voters to sign a petition in favor of certain party or candidate by a particular time.
California requires 1,030,040 signatures for ballot access, according to the California Secretary of State website. The secretary of state has until Sept. 25 to verify the petitions and confirm Americans Elect as an official party eligible to be put on the ballot.
Americans Elects said it has succeeded in getting ballot access in Arizona, Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Nevada and Michigan. On Sept. 15 the organization announced it had begun circulating its petition in Oregon.
Despite the record number of people who signed the petition in California, many CSUN students are unaware of the organization and its efforts.
“Americans Elect doesn’t sound very interesting to me,” said computer science major Carlos Ruiz, 19. “I honestly don’t even care for politics. I find politics boring.”
Political science major Jose Juarez, 24, said he found the concept of Americans Elect confusing.
“I’ve never heard of Americans Elect,” he said. “I think it’s kind of weird to try to break a traditional voting system that this country has used for so long.”
Many people are also skeptical of the organization’s goal to get ballot access across the country.
“It’s going to be an uphill challenge for Americans Elect to get on the ballot,” Michaud said. “I can’t say whether they will succeed or fail but one thing’s for sure—it’s going to be tricky.”
Others are critical of the group’s motives.
Jim Cook, blogger behind the popular political news blog Irregular Times, said he is not against Americans Elect but questions whether some of the claims made by the group match observable facts.
Cook has been tracking the organization’s activities for the last year and believes others would benefit from following his example.
“I think a critical approach would be useful for Americans to take regardless of how they feel about Americans Elect,” he said in an email.
Despite numerous claims of not being a political party, Americans Elect has registered as such in several states, Cook pointed out in his blog in August.
“You’ll have to ask Americans Elect what its motivations are for repeatedly declaring an untruth,” Cook wrote.
But Cook isn’t all criticism. He said if the group could reform itself, he could support the organization.
Like Cook, Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News, has been monitoring the actions made by Americans Elect, but that is where the similarties end.
“I am very happy about the existence of Americans Elect,” said Winger, an expert on ballot access law who believes the group has a high chance of making it to the ballot in all 50 states.
Even if Americans Elect succeeds, the organization faces the problem of fighting for voter attention, especially in California, where there are already six previously established and qualified political parties, Michaud said.
When it comes down to selecting a presidential candidate, voters are most likely to vote based on party identification, Michaud added.
Because the Democratic and Republican parties are the two most distinguishable groups, it is unlikely voters will choose a lesser-known party on election day.
Psychology major Gabby Henriquez, 20, follows the concept of party identification.
“I pay very little attention to politics, so my vote will probably go to the party I’ve heard most about,” she said. “Even though Americans Elect has time to gain recognition, I really don’t think anyone is going to vote for it.”