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Don't like how we elect a president? Americans Elect offers alternative.

To combat discontent with the political climate, Americans Elect aims to put the first directly nominated nonpartisan presidential candidate on the ballot, decided by an online convention.

By Andrew MachContributor / November 16, 2011

Americans Elect site lets voters advance issues and, eventually, a candidate.

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Is it time for an extreme make-over of how America arrives at its presidential nominees?

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A grass-roots effort to do just that is under way – with the intent of bypassing the traditional party-based primary and caucus process that begins Jan. 3 in Iowa.

The nonprofit Americans Elect aims to take party politics out of this method by putting a directly nominated nonpartisan presidential ticket on the ballot in 2012.

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No, it's not a third party, says Elliot Ackerman, chief operating officer of AmericansElect.org, but rather a second way of nominating someone to be the country's next leader. This alternative, he says, "puts the people ahead of the parties" – and it is being carried out entirely online.

"Politics is one of the few places where you still have to accept Brand A and Brand B, so at Americans Elect we want to leverage our newest technologies to get us back to our oldest values, which is letting every voter participate in a meaningful way," Mr. Ackerman says.

If the group has its way, it will hold the first-ever nonpartisan online nominating convention, and the political ticket that emerges from it will be on the ballot in all 50 states.

But first there's a long row to hoe. Americans Elect must collect 2.9 million signatures, representing every state, from people who want such a nonpartisan ticket to qualify for the ballot. The drive, if successful, would mark the first time a presidential candidate nominated directly by the American people achieved ballot access. So far, 1.9 million people in 24 states have signed the petitions.

The as-yet-to-be-named ticket has already qualified for the ballot in seven states, including four swing states – Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio – and volunteers are gathering signatures in 13 others, says Kahlil Byrd, AmericansElect.org's chief executive officer. Americans Elect is waiting to hear if its signatures are sufficient to make the ballots in Arkansas, Hawaii, Utah, and California. In California, organizers submitted 1.6 million signatures in early October, more than for any single initiative in state history.

Financial backing for the endeavor is a mystery. Americans Elect is funded exclusively by some $20 million in contributions from unnamed individuals, says Mr. Byrd. The group's website says it intends to repay the initial financiers so that no single individual will have contributed more than $10,000.

Here's how the process works: Any registered voter, regardless of party, can sign up online to be a delegate (more than 200,000 people already have). First, delegates take an online survey that defines their core political views by ranking their priorities on a host of topics such as foreign policy, the economy, the environment, and social issues.

Next, delegates can submit questions of their own that they'd like prospective candidates to answer. Collectively, delegates will later decide the most important questions, which the eventual Americans Elect candidates will have to answer.

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