New Group Lets Voters Pick Presidential Running-mates

Wednesday, 10 Aug 2011 05:17 PM

By Henry J. Reske and Kathleen Walter

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For the first time, every American voter can go beyond the Republican and Democratic parties and have a direct role in putting together a national ticket for a presidential election, Elliot Ackerman tells Newsmax.

Ackerman is the chief operating officer for Americans Elect, an online organization that allows registered voters to put together a presidential ticket outside the confines of the two major parties and place it on the ballot in all 50 states. About 1.6 million people have registered on the site.

“I think if you look at our society right now, politics is the only facet of our life where we’re only presented with Brand A and Brand B,” Ackerman said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.

Story continues below video.

“People are more nuanced than the political views that the two parties serve up, and they want to have more of a voice in their politics. I think the conditions are ripe right now for people to be able to more directly participate in politics. There should be a little more competition in politics. It’s good in every other facet of our society. Why not in politics?”

The organization plans to hold the “first ever, nonpartisan, secure, online nominating convention for 2012,” he explained.

“Any registered voter can be a delegate to the convention, and the ticket that comes out of the convention will be on the ballot in all 50 states. So this is really a political innovation, something that’s never been done before.”

Ackerman has a big mountain to climb. The best a third-party candidate could hope for traditionally was to be a spoiler — a role played by the likes of Ralph Nader, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and Ross Perot.

“We are definitely the David to their Goliath,” Ackerman said. “But people want more voice and they want more power in their politics. The Internet and social media have been a great flattener in all areas of our lives, and there’s no reason why they can’t do the same in politics.”

Some political observers agree that 2012 is ripe for a serious third-party run. James Carville, a former top adviser to President Bill Clinton, recently predicted that 2012 may see a strong three-way race for president.

“This is going to be the most tumultuous thing you can imagine,” Carville said in an interview the Los Angeles Times. “I wouldn’t be surprised if anything happens.”

One of the main financial backers of the Ackerman’s group is his father, Peter, a private investment executive who made tens of millions working with junk bond trader Michael Milken in the 1980s, the Times reported. According to tax documents the group filed last year when it organized as a political organization, the senior Ackerman donated at least $1.55 million.

The group changed its designation to a 501(c)4 social welfare group in October, a move that allows it to shield donors, the Times reported, noting that at least 11 of the organization’s 50 board members work in finance.

"They must be trying to hide from the public who their donors are," Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Democracy 21, told the Times. "This is a very strange way for a group to act that is complaining about the state of American politics."

But Ackermann believes the criticism is a sign that his group is having an effect, and that is making the traditional political machinery nervous.

“I think we’re seeing there is a widespread appetite for this,” he said. “As we’ve gone about our ballot access initiatives, we’ve seen people coming out in droves to sign up, to have more choice on the ballot, and we’re really opening up more lively discussions, more lively debate, as to what the critical issues are facing our country and how to get effective solutions to those issues.”

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