Hypothetically speaking – “Americans Elect” could disenfranchise New York (or any other...

Hypothetically speaking – “Americans Elect” could disenfranchise New York (or any other state) in the 2012 presidential election.


Americans Elect (AE) is an organization that intends to qualify for the 2012 presidential ballot in all 50 states, then field a presidential slate through an open nomination process on the internet.

I took note of the organization when they received favorable coverage after “de-cloaking” a few weeks ago. Realistically, we can expect “Americans Elect” to have as much impact on the 2012 election as their predecessor organization “Unity08” had on the 2008 election. Which is to say – none. They can probably be safely ignored until such time as they show some real traction.

Still, this is an organization that proposes to dramatically change the way we select our President and they appear to have the financial support and the legal wherewithal to succeed with their ballot initiative. As such, it is prudent to take a deep dive into Americans Elect representations and bylaws, ask questions, and look for unintended consequences. Some bloggers are already working this beat.

Jim Cook of Irregular Times is skeptical and has been frustrated in his attempts to get his questions answered. Sol Kleinsmith of Rise of The Center (and occasional contributor here) is more favorably inclined, has been promised an interview, and is soliciting his readers for questions to ask the organization. It should be an interesting interview.

An interesting artifact of the Americans Elect proposed process for nominating and electing our president surfaced in one of the RoTC threads. Here is the scenario – Let’s say American’s Elect has successfully obtained ballot status and fielded a credible presidential candidate in 2012. They lose the election but win a plurality in one or more states and consequently neither the Republican or Democratic candidate have a majority of electoral votes. This is a plausible scenario (unlike actually winning the presidency for an AE candidate – which has a zero probability). While there is no history of a third party candidate winning the presidency, they have on occasion won the electoral votes for one or more states. One could easily envision an AE candidate with a strong geographic appeal winning a plurality in a state and securing their electoral votes as a favorite son. In that circumstance AE would make the decision between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates for the entire country.

Americans Elect anticipated this scenario in their bylaws:

9.4.2. Coalition Agreement. The Americans Elect ticket receives fewer popular votes nationally than the ticket of at least one of the major political parties and the Americans Elect Delegates have convened in convention after the popular vote but before the Electoral College vote and endorsed a candidate of either major political party on such terms and conditions as may be reflected in the vote of endorsement, in which case the person serving as Elector shall vote solely in the affirmative for the endorsed candidate and for no other candidate.

This says Americans Elect intends to reconvene an on-line convention and through a vote of their delegates (theoretically any registered voter who opts-in – including me) decide whether the Republican or Democratic candidate will be our president. Specific details of how this AE re-convention would take place are sparse, but lets just take AE’s representations at face value and look at this through the prism of a hypothetical scenario:

It is November 7, 2012. A plurality of the people of New York state have voted to put their confidence in AE candidate Michael Bloomberg. In a close election, neither Democratic candidate Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney have secured a majority of electoral votes. New York’s 31 electoral votes will now determine who will be president.

Not all of the registered voters of New York are AE delegates. They voted in a general election for a candidate – Michael Bloomberg. Yet by AE bylaws, Michael Bloomberg is now sidelined and will not decide how to cast the New York electoral votes on behalf of the people of New York. Instead, it is the Americans Elect delegates who will decide whether Obama or Romney receive New York’s 31 electoral votes and the presidency. As a practical matter, the people of the state of New York will be completely disenfranchised in the 2012 electoral college vote. How do you think they will feel about Texans, Floridians and Californians deciding whether their 31 electoral votes will be cast to make either Obama or Romney president? If clearly understood, would any New York voter to take that risk?

These are rhetorical questions. The answer is obvious.

In their haste to put together bylaws for their ballot initiative, AE may not have thought through the political ramifications of this provision. Assuming they get on all 50 state ballots and come up with a credible candidate, they can easily be undone by this provision alone. It is just too easy to run against. If an AE candidate shows any strength in any state, the consequences of an AE win in that state will be shouted from the rooftops by competing campaigns, bloggers, pundits, partisan of both parties, and the mainstream media. The message is simple and easy to communicate: The state will be disenfranchised in the Electoral College if the AE candidate wins that state.

From a tactical political campaign perspective, this is the equivalent of leading with your chin in a boxing match. I suspect that AE has a glass jaw and it would not take much of an uppercut to put them on the canvas. I have to believe that once Americans Elect realizes this problem, they will change these bylaws if they can.

If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale on the importance of transparency and the need for a deep dive when vetting those advocating new ways to elect our president. If the top gun political public relations professionals that run AE missed something like this, you’ve got to wonder what else they missed.

The Devil is in details and the details need to be out in the open where we can look for the bugger.

X-posted from “Divided We Stand United We Fall.”

  • kranky kritter

    Not all of the registered voters of New York are AE delegates.

    Do you mean “not all AE delegates are registered NY voters?”

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    No -I meant it the way I wrote it, but oddly enough it works and makes a similar point if I construct the sentence the way you did.

    That sentence is embedded in my November 7, 2012 future hypothetical. The way I wrote it I was attempting to say there was/is/will be a class of voters in NY who voted for Bloomberg because they like/trust Bloomberg and their vote has nothing to do with AE – in fact, they could be completely ignorant of AE. They wake up to find that Bloomberg did not win the presidency, and that their electoral votes will not even be controlled by Bloomberg but instead by another vote of national AE delegates. They are not AE delegates and may not even have a vote in that second round.

    This is also where AE and their bylaws are silent about the important details how such a second internet convention would be conducted. Would only delegates registered for the nomination be permitted to participate in the vote to decide what to do with the NY Electoral votes? Or is the delegate registration re-opened to determine (in this hypothetical) the next president? All TBD.

    This writing in the present/past tense from the point of view of a future dated hypothetical is tricky. I don’t really have the hang of it.