New group seeks to nominate Presidential candidates directly

Americans Elect, a group seeking to use the Internet to directly nominate a presidential candidate in 2012, is opening a chapter on the Puget Sound campus. With over 100 chapters in 35 states, the movement, which hopes to engage the youth vote at universities, grows with each passing day as the season of party primaries grows closer.

“Our only goal is to put a directly nominated ticket on the ballot in 2012,” reads the website, AmericansElect.org, which also eschews affiliation with political parties, lobbies or special interests.

As a dynamic, interactive voting process, Americans Elect is working to galvanize the youngest voting generation, which, with the exception of the 2008 presidential election, has historically been among the weakest in voter turnout.  Users create a profile in which they rank broad issues by their importance, including healthcare, economy, education, and reform. Now considered delegates, users then submit and answer questions in these fields, and are able to view the voting results for each question on a state-by-state basis. Using computers as a tool for democratization, the group hopes to bring a stronger public voice to a system of party primaries and presidential nominations that currently leaves many states, citizens and political groups unhappy.

The Puget Sound chapter expects to be recognized as an official ASUPS club by October, when it will begin work to obtain signatures, volunteers and voters to participate in the organization’s nomination process.

“It’s a total restructuring of the voting process,” said Kristie Dutra, president of the chapter at Puget Sound. “The political implications of this move are huge and far-reaching, especially for college students.”

Bolstered by national exposure on an August episode of the “Colbert Report” and a favorable article in the “New York Times,” Americans Elect has collected over 1.85 million signatures to date and is in the process of framing issues and questions that those hoping to gain its endorsement must approach. The number of participants is already well over half that necessary to gain ballot access throughout the United States.

Americans Elect has gained massive support in states like California and New Jersey, which are often left out of the decision-making process in presidential primaries because their elections occur later. The current system of primaries gives great influence to the results in Iowa and New Hampshire because they are able to hold their elections earlier than other states.

Bypassing the party primary system allows users of Americans Elect to cross party trenches and force potential candidates to answer questions on difficult and important issues. To encourage bipartisanship, the winning candidate out of the election of six is required to choose a vice president of the opposing party.

Opponents of the group have voiced some major concerns including the security of online voting and the lack of transparency within the group’s leadership. Currently, the Americans Elect Board of Directors has the power to change any of the group’s bylaws, which would allow them to overrule the wishes of delegates and candidates.