In May, Ballot Access News reported that the new political organization Americans Elect had already collected over 500,000 signatures in its California ballot access petition drive. From Richard Winger:
This already sets a new record for the largest number of signatures ever collected in one state to place a new party on the ballot. The previous highs had been set by the American Independent Party in Ohio in 1968, which collected 451,000 signatures; and the Independent Progressive Party in California in 1947-1948, which collected 464,000.To gain ballot access by petition in California, parties must gather over 1,000,000 valid signatures – the exact number being equal to 10% of the total vote in the previous gubernatorial election. Alternately, a new party can qualify if its total registration exceeds 1% of the previous gubernatorial election. Why then would Americans Elect seek 1 million signatures rather than 100,000 members? As the party’s national field director, Kellen Arno, explains in an interview on the group’s website, Americans Elect is apparently not interested in membership per se:
“One of the core beliefs of Americans Elect is welcoming Americans from all political parties and ideologies. Because we are not a traditional third party or political part of any sort, we don’t want to ask people to leave their parties. Instead, we believe that the more people who are able to participate in Americans Elect, from as diverse backgrounds as possible, ultimately makes our democracy and our country stronger,” says Arno.In recent months, Americans Elect has quietly begun an ambitious campaign to gain ballot access in all 50 states ahead of next year’s presidential election. The party has already submitted petitions in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Alaska, and Florida, according to reports at Ballot Access News.
However, relatively little seems to be known about the group, and it has received very little news coverage, despite the fact that it appears to have a significant amount of money at its disposal. "Americans Elect, which became a 501(c) 4 corporation in September, can be as secretive as it wishes. As a 501(c) 4 it is not required to report who its contributors are,” wrote Greg Lucas for Capitol Weekly back in April. A Google News search for “Americans Elect,” returns just three references to the organization and two of these are from Ballot Access News.For more on the group, check out their website, but be sure to peruse the ongoing, critical coverage of the organization at Irregular Times.
Until it was converted into a 501(c) 4, Americans Elect was registered as a 527 organization. According to Open Secrets, there were two primary contributors to that incarnation of the group: Peter Ackerman and Arno Political Consultants. Ackerman was previously active in the failed Unity ‘08 effort to field a bipartisan presidential ticket in the 2008 election.
Though Americans Elect is seeking ballot access in all 50 states as a political party, it does not conceive itself as a party, at least in the traditional sense. Rather, it stresses how new technologies can transform the political process in the United States. “Americans Elect will hold a secure vote in the first-ever online presidential nominating convention. Every registered voter—Democrats, Republicans, and independents—may be a Delegate and help nominate a presidential ticket that bridges the vital center of our national politics,” says the group on its “About” page.
Though the group has received relatively little media attention to date, some expect its campaign to kick into high gear over the summer. “There is a vacuum of traditional political news during the summer months . . . This summer, I expect the big political drama to be the emergence of Americans Elect,” writes Jim Cook at Irregular Times.