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New Political Party American Elect is alternative choice

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New Political Party American Elect is alternative choice

Post  Panda on Fri 30 Dec - 7:34

New group paves way for alternative 2012 choice

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
December 29, 2011 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)

Third-party candidate Ross Perot won nearly 20% of the vote in 1992 but not a single electoral vote


  • Americans Elect has devised an alternative presidential nomination process
  • Voters will choose a nonpartisan ticket through an online process
  • Americans Elect is trying to steer political dialogue in a more centrist direction
  • Critics warn the effort could erode the legitimacy of the eventual winner

Washington (CNN) -- Are you feeling uninspired this
election season? Are you sick of all the attention being slathered on a
small group of die-hard partisans in Iowa and New Hampshire? Do you
think the political system's broken and your voice is ignored?

If you're looking for a change from the usual left-right,
liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican dynamic, you may get your
wish. There's a new group in the 2012 election, and it's aiming to
redefine presidential politics by going around the major party machines
and putting an alternative choice on the ballot in all 50 states and the
District of Columbia.

Americans Elect, which has raised $22 million so far, is harnessing
the power of the Internet to conduct an unprecedented national online
primary next spring. If all goes according to plan, the result will be a
credible, nonpartisan ticket that pushes alternative centrist solutions
to the growing problems America's current political leadership seems
unwilling or unable to tackle.

The theory: If you break the stranglehold that more ideologically
extreme primary voters and established interests currently have over
presidential nominations, you will push Washington to seriously address
tough economic and other issues. Even if the group's ticket doesn't win,
its impact will force Democrats and Republicans in the nation's capital
to start bridging their cavernous ideological divide.

"We're not a third party. We're a second nominating process trying to
create a ticket that is solutions-based, that will force the
conversation to the center rather than keeping it at the extremes of
either party," says Ileana Wachtel, a spokeswoman for the group.

If you think Americans Elect is nothing more than a bunch of na´ve
dreamers, think again. Its leadership includes former New Jersey GOP
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; former Clinton administration strategist
Doug Schoen; former National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair;
former FBI and CIA Director William Webster; and former U.S. Trade
Representative Carla Hills, among others.

The group's CEO is Kahlil Byrd, former communications director for
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat. Dan Winslow, a
Massachusetts Republican state representative and a former chief counsel
to GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, is also on board.

Iowa: Anyone's race to win

Funding for the effort was kicked off with over $5 million from
investment banker Peter Ackerman. Financially, the ultimate goal is to
limit each contributor's donation to no more than $10,000.

Americans Elect strategists believe they'll need around $35 million
in total, half of which will likely be necessary to meet cumbersome
ballot access requirements.

"The people who provided the seed money to get us started come from
across the political spectrum," the group claims on its website. "Giving
to Americans Elect buys you no special influence whatsoever, and all
donors acknowledge that fact when they contribute."

One point of contention is that the group does not disclose the names
of its donors, citing its nonprofit status and fears that contributors
could find themselves losing potential business or social contacts.
Critics contend the secrecy undermines the organization's claims of
openness and transparency, and they argue that any group with such a
clear electoral goal should not be exempt from disclosure rules
governing the Democratic and Republican national committees.

Any registered voter -- Democrat, Republican, or otherwise -- can
become an Americans Elect online delegate. Over 300,000 people have
signed up so far. While anyone can seek the group's nomination, possible
candidates will have to answer multiple online questionnaires.

Six prospective nominees will eventually be chosen by the delegates
in an online winnowing process culminating in the selection of a ticket
in June. According to the rules, two members of the same party will not
be allowed to run together.

"When candidates pick running mates from outside their parties, it's a
clear sign that they're working to build the consensus necessary to get
things done," the group argues. "They'll govern without regard to the
partisan interests of either major party."

Could New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg team up with former Secretary
of State Colin Powell? How about Joe Lieberman and Condoleezza Rice?
What about tapping a media celebrity like Tom Brokaw or a deficit hawk
like former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles?

The list of possibilities is virtually endless, but the list of
criticisms is long. Among other things, critics question the ability to
stop a fringe group from hijacking the process and using Americans Elect
to advance their own narrow cause. Possible nominees will have to be
cleared by an independent committee and undergo a background check, but
the committee's decision can be overruled by a majority of the

Will the online voting be secure from hackers? "We take that issue
very seriously," Wachtel told CNN, noting that each delegate will be
able to produce a paper record of his or her vote.

Josh Levine, the former chief technology and operations of E*Trade Financial, is tasked with the website's security.

A number of political observers question whether an Americans Elect
ticket could ever have a serious shot at winning. For all the talk of
voter alienation and disgust with Washington, broad segments of the
electorate maintain strong party loyalties, and the country's
winner-take-all electoral system remains a huge hurdle for anyone trying
to break the two-party stranglehold. Ross Perot won nearly 20% of the
vote in 1992 and didn't have a single electoral vote to show for his
efforts; 270 electoral votes are needed to win the White House.

The last non-major party candidate to make any headway in the
Electoral College was George Wallace, who ran in 1968 on a specific
issue -- opposition to civil rights -- and with a very clear regional
base of support. At the moment, Americans Elect appears to have neither.

Having a charismatic nominee might help, but would hardly guarantee
electoral viability. When one of the most beloved politicians in U.S.
history -- Theodore Roosevelt -- bucked the two-party system in 1912, he
only succeeded in splitting the Republican vote and ensuring a victory
for Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.

Veteran political analysts Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann have
speculated that an Americans Elect ticket may end up splitting the
electorate next year in such a way that an otherwise unacceptable major
party nominee ends up capturing the presidency.

"The nightmare scenario for us would be angry or demoralized
independents and discouraged centrist Republicans gravitating toward the
third candidate, enabling a far-right Republican nominee to prevail
with a narrow electoral majority or with a plurality followed by a win
in a deeply divided House," they recently wrote in The Washington Post.

The U.S. Constitution requires the House of Representatives to pick
the president if no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes.

Ornstein and Mann also question the ability of an independent
president to govern effectively, and fear the eventual winner's
legitimacy could be undermined by a severe three-way split in the
popular vote.

"In this tough environment, any diminishment of legitimacy for the winner is undesirable," they said.

Asked to respond, Wachtel told CNN the need for change is paramount.

"At this point, the system's already spoiled," she said. "We need to
open the process up to more competition and more choices for the
American people."
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