The effort could represent a promising new chapter for political moderates, who see a wide-open middle in the political landscape as congressional gridlock and bitter partisan fights have driven down favorability ratings for both parties.
“Voters are saddened by the inability of people in Washington to deal with the issues that are important to them,” said the group’s chief executive, Kahlil Byrd, a Republican strategist who once worked for Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D).
Americans Elect has ballot slots in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and five other states, with certification pending in several others.
The group is relying on an ambitious plan to hold a political convention on the Internet that would treat registered voters like fans of “American Idol,” giving everyone a shot at picking a favorite candidate.
“We want to gather millions of people and allow them to run authentically through the process,” Byrd said, calling it a “wide-scale draft movement for presidential candidates.”
Unlike the Green Party, Americans Elect is not creating a separate party, but trying to change the political process in two ways. First, the group seeks to create a mixed-party ticket, requiring its presidential candidate to pick a running mate from a different party.
Second, Americans Elect — which was formed and is backed by Peter Ackerman, a wealthy private investor and philanthropist, along with Byrd — wants to take the nominating process out of the hands of a few primary voters and make it more open through the use of technology. Registered voters who sign up on the group’s Web site would directly nominate and select candidates online in the spring. A final nominee would be selected in June.
All of this has the potential to affect the 2012 election, said Nicco Mele, who lectures at Harvard University on technology and politics and helped build an online following for former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
Americans Elect’s online nomination process could be “potentially disruptive” to the presidential campaign, he said.
No candidates for the Americans Elect nomination have officially declared, but some prominent people are associated with the effort, including former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman (R), who serves on the group’s board of directors.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s name has also been mentioned, probably because a leader in the effort to draft the independent into the 2008 presidential race is involved in Americans Elect.