Americans Elect, a new political movement looking to place its own non-partisan presidential candidate on ballots across the 50 states, has taken root at Stanford.
Student volunteers have joined the movement, though it does not have a registered student group on campus, and renowned faculty have expressed support, amid speculation about who among them might become candidates themselves.
“Americans Elect is a ‘second way’ to nominate a president, not a traditional third party,” states the Americans Elect website. “Our process is open to any qualified candidate and any registered voter – no matter their party.”
Any registered voter, regardless of party, need only sign up as a delegate online with Americans Elect to nominate qualified candidates or to demonstrate support for those previously nominated. This process serves as the convention through which Americans Elect will select its presidential candidate by June 2012.
“I think that it has a good chance to do something very innovative in American politics, and that is to present… an independent presidential candidate who is… the product of a very, very broad participatory and deliberative process,” said Larry Diamond, Hoover fellow and director of Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “I think it has the potential to do that.”
While some view Americans Elect as a detractor from partisan candidates or as a lost cause, Americans Elect provides a reportedly secure voting method that allows delegates to vote in partisan primaries as well as in the independent nominations. The group has achieved ballot access in 15 states, including California, Florida and Michigan, with 2,391,957 signatures toward a directly nominated ticket.
“The big question that remains unanswered is who’s going to put themselves forward as a credible ticket,” Diamond said. “Much of the future of Americans Elect depends on that.”
Diamond himself has been named as a potential candidate to come out of the process, but laughed at the suggestion.
“Absolutely not. Under no circumstance,” he said, when asked about the possibility. “First of all, I don’t even think I would qualify… it’s so outlandish and ridiculous, it’s funny.”
Diamond mentioned that, before endorsing Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman would have been a potential candidate for Americans Elect. While Huntsman’s choice to endorse may have taken his name out of the running, among the other most tracked candidates on the website are Ron Paul, President Obama and Bernie Sanders.
Americans Elect’s student supporters at Stanford are equally optimistic about the nomination system. A recent programming drawback forced the associated student committee to reschedule a panel event for Friday, Jan. 20, to an unspecified date in March. Despite the setbacks, Americans Elect is looking forward to a revamped, highly publicized event.
“I think since it’s such a high-profile event with some really big-name professors in academia and also some outside experts, hopefully it will attract a lot of attention,” said Americans Elect campus leader and director of finance Darren Hau ’15. “We’re hoping to get an auditorium that seats maybe 300 to 400 people.”
Hau noted that the Americans Elect student group has yet to be officially recognized by the University and, as a result, was unable to secure a location with enough time to fundraise for the event. Meanwhile, Diamond explained that a Friday afternoon event would likely draw a lower attendance than a more strategically timed panel in the spring. Among the speakers invited to the panel event were David Kennedy, co-director of The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford; Khalil Byrd, CEO of Americans Elect; Tucker Bonds, former spokesman of the McCain ’08 campaign; and Diamond.
In addition to the group’s efforts to become a recognized student group on campus and draw students to a panel presentation, the Stanford committee for Americans Elect has publicized in White Plaza, prompting between 60 and 70 students to join the group’s mailing list.
“I believe Stanford has more students signed up for the Americans Elect emailing list than any other campus,” said student volunteer Josh Grinberg, ’15. “So in that regard, the Stanford campus is most aware and most active.”
Americans Elect has the potential to add a third ticket to ballots across America. The group hopes to make a broad, grass-roots appeal with efforts similar to those currently taking shape at Stanford’s campus.
“We just want to re-engage people,” Hau said. “Besides promoting awareness of Americans Elect, we want to tell people that… you can actually participate constructively in politics.”