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Dark Money: "Americans Elect" Wants to Pick Candidates Via Internet Voting [View All]

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 08:36 PM
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Dark Money: "Americans Elect" Wants to Pick Candidates Via Internet Voting
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Meet the Political Reform Group That's Fueled by Dark Money

Americans Elect says it wants to reform the political system. Campaign watchdogs say it should start by reforming itself.

By Siddhartha Mahanta

An upstart political reform group called Americans Elect is looking to blow apart the Democrat-Republican duopoly that dominates American politics. Its imaginative scheme: nominating an independent presidential candidate over the internet. The group is on the ballot in a half-dozen states, and the national buzz surrounding its initiative is growingbut so too are the questions about who's bankrolling this effort and the security of the outfit's voting procedures.

Americans Elect rose from the ashes of Unity08, a group formed in 2006 to increase access to the electoral system for independent presidential candidates. Via Americans Elect's website, registered voters can sign up as "delegates" and nominate "any American believe can be a great leader."


To become certified as a political party, the group must first collect a certain number of signatures in each state. All told, Americans Elect plans to spend $10 million on this effort.


In September, campaign finance watchdogs Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center requested that the IRS investigate whether Americans Elect and several other 501(c)(4)s qualify for tax-exempt status. Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, says that Americans Elect is functioning like a political party, making it ineligible for tax exemption. "A political party cannot be a social-welfare organization under our tax laws," Wertheimer says. "The danger to the integrity of the electoral system is the failure to disclose their donors, which is essential information in our political process."


The source of Americans Elect's money is not the only cause for concern. Pamela Smith, president of, a voters' advocacy group, questions the group's reliance on internet voting. Smith and other election experts argue that it is insecure and exceedingly difficult to audit.


Based on what Americans Elect officials have told her in a series of conversations, Smith remains unconvinced that they have brought on the right people and the right technology to implement a transparent, easily audited internet voting system. "If you allow it to be used in public elections without assurance that the results are verifiably accurate, that is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy," she says.

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