the Charlotte Observer – www.CharlotteObserver.com

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011

By Jim Morrill

A national online effort to find and nominate a candidate for president has begun a petition drive to get that candidate on the ballot in North Carolina.

Americans Elect, described as a “virtual Third Party,” hopes to mobilize tens of thousands of people across the country to recommend and then vote on a presidential ticket in 2012.

Organizers say they’ve already gotten the 1.6 million signatures they need to get on the ballot in California.

“There’s a real hunger out there for a third ticket in 2012 and for folks to participate in a more meaningful way in a primary,” Elliot Ackerman, the group’s chief operating officer, told the Observer on Monday. “Not just people who live in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire but every American.”

The group’s board of advisers includes Mark Erwin of Charlotte, an investor and former U.S. ambassador, former FBI Director William Webster and Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to President George W. Bush.

Its website says the nonprofit group plans to use the Internet “to help break gridlock and change politics as usual.”

Basically, the plan works like this:

Candidates can begin signing up themselves or be “drafted” starting in December. In April, a series of votes will winnow the field to six. In June, a virtual convention – already 275,000 delegates have signed up – will choose a candidate, who would have a running mate of the other party.

The candidate would then compete in a general election against President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee.

The effort is funded with $21 million raised from undisclosed seed donors, reported to be mostly wealthy hedge-fund executives. Ackerman said the group’s goal is $30 million to get on ballots and run the process online.

He said the goal is to give all Americans – not just those in key primary states – a voice in choosing a nominee. And unlike primaries often dominated by a party’s more extreme wings, the online process is designed to find a candidate acceptable to the middle.

“If you can change the way we nominate our leaders, you can change the way they govern,” Ackerman said. “And if every American can participate, not just the hyper-partisan, we as Americans wind up with more stable solutions.”

Copyright 2011 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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