Maybe closer to 30,000. See Update, below. —JL
Yesterday, Americans Elect was out with a press release that included the following claim (emphasis mine):
Americans Elect delegates, which now total more than 400,000 and counting, can draft and support a presidential candidate of their choice and nominate a presidential ticket that will appear on general election ballots nationwide this November.
Is this true? Does Americans Elect really have more
than 400,000 identity-verified delegates?
What evidence there is suggests that it possibly is
not even close to that number.
:: :: ::
AS I LEARNED a couple of weeks ago, when I went
to AmericansElect.org and completed the delegate verification process, becoming an Americans Elect delegate requires a bit of a commitment. It's not as
simple as just "signing up."
Indeed, the corporate By-Laws of Americans Elect
specify two distinct levels of participation: Members
and Delegates. Section 2.2, defining "Members,"
states (emphasis mine):
All persons who are citizens of the United States may register online as Members
of Americans Elect...regardless of their membership in any political party. All Members who are registered voters
shall be eligible to become Delegates of Americans Elect upon verification of their lawful voter registration status by means of verification as determined by the Board. Members may participate in all activities of Americans Elect but shall not vote unless verified as Delegates.
Section 2.3 goes on to define "Delegates" as
Members who have submitted sufficient information to permit verification of their lawful status as registered voters and citizens of the United States, and who have been so verified by Americans Elect, and who have accepted the Delegate Pledge as provided by the Rules Committee.
As to the specifics of verification, the corporate Rules
of Americans Elect (Sections 1.0 and 1.1) detail that
[a]ny natural person who is a citizen of the United States, age 18 or older, registered to vote in any state or the District of Columbia
on the date he or she casts a vote in the Americans Elect Convention, and entitled
to vote in the election for President of the United States shall be qualified to be a voting Delegate of Americans Elect, upon submission of...[f]ull name as reflected on his or her voter registration; date of birth; residential address including street, apartment number if applicable, city or town, state, and zip code that matches the public voter registration address; and such additional publicly available information to verify status as a citizen and registered voter as Americans Elect may request.
:: :: ::
There are four basic steps to becoming an identity-verified delegate of Americans Elect, all of which
are to be completed via the verification interface
The first two of these steps — providing a genuine
email address and choosing a "strong" PIN — echo the familiar registration process at many Web sites today, and would seem to correspond directly to the By-Laws' definition of Members as "persons who...register online."
Indeed, after completing these first two steps, Americans Elect provided me with my own "account" and a user number — 369310 —
which, you'll notice, is very close to the "400,000"
of the press release.
But in order to be eligible...
to provide clicks of "support" for
draft or declared candidates;
to draft candidates;
to actually to vote for candidates; and
to challenge decisions of the Board
and its committees
...one must become a delegate — which means completing the remaining two steps.
These steps involve providing one's full name, full residential address, date of birth, and last four digits
of one's Social Security number — then correctly answering several multiple-choice security questions
that are generated by this information.
Only then — when one's "identity" has been "verified" — is one a delegate, with all the privileges that obtain.
:: :: ::
HERE'S where it gets interesting.
If you go to AmericansElect.org, you'll see on the
home page a list of the "Most Supported" declared
and draft candidates.
The number beneath each candidate's name corresponds to what Americans Elect calls "support clicks." These clicks can be provided only by identity-verified delegates. If you click through to a specific candidate's page but are not logged in or are not a delegate, scrolling over the "Add My Support" button generates a pop-up that reads "You must be a delegate to perform this action."
If you drill down to the 20 or so "most supported" candidates — whether "declared" or "draft" — you'll
see that there has been a total of only about 16,000 clicks of "support" from delegates.
The thing is, the vast majority of "support clicks" are concentrated in this top tier. The "least supported" of this top tier of "most supported" candidates, David Walker, has about 150 clicks of "support." But, 25 or so candidates "down" the list, one already has arrived at candidates with around 50 or fewer "support clicks"; and 25 or so candidates later, the "support" for candidates has fallen to below 30 clicks. Out of 30-plus pages of draft candidates, each with 10 candidates, the last 24 pages of candidates have 25 or fewer "support clicks" each. The last 17 pages of candidates each have 5 or fewer clicks. And the last 10 pages are filled with candidates who have only 1 click of "support."
:: :: ::
Obviously, a lot people (and their friends) are supporting themselves and their heroes. It probably is a stretch
to say that there are 20,000 clicks of "support" in the entire system. Which should worry Americans Elect, given that — according to its own corporate Rules — the qualifying threshold for any candidate's participating in the first stage of its primary is at least 10,000 clicks (1,000 clicks from each of 10 states).
So let's stay with "16,000." That number would correspond to 16,000 unique delegates, if each of
these delegates clicked "support" for only one candidate. But delegates are allowed to "support" as many different candidates as they like — so the total number of these delegates that have engaged so far probably is significantly less. If each of these active delegates clicked "support" for two different candidates, there would be 8,000 delegates engaging with the Americans Elect process. If each was giving a "support click" to three candidates, the total number
of engaged delegates would drop to a little more
:: :: ::
BUT LET'S be generous. Let's assume that there are fully 16,000 Americans Elect delegates engaging with
the corporation's process.
Does this mean that Americans Elect has the 400,000 delegates that it claims — but that 384,000 of them are sitting on the sidelines right now?
Or does it mean that there are (at most) 16,000 active Americans Elect delegates (and maybe a few more inactive ones) — along with an additional 384,000-plus well-meaning citizens who went to the Americans Elect Web site and, with nothing more than an email address and a PIN number, registered as "members" but never got any further than that and never qualified as delegates?
I'm guessing the latter. But, either way, it appears
that Americans Elect is suffering from a very wide enthusiasm gap.
:: :: ::
UPDATE: 26 May 2012
Jim Cook of Irregular Times today flags a new article
in which Americans Elect national press secretary
Ileana Wachtel is reported to have said this week
that (emphasis mine)
only 300 out of tens of thousands of people had problems with the website that couldn’t be resolved, mostly because of inaccurate voter registration data.
Only 300 out of “tens of thousands” had trouble registering as delegates? Tens of thousands? Counting generously, that means less than a hundred thousand people registered as delegates. If less than a hundred thousand people registered as delegates, that means Americans Elect inflated its delegate count in publicity materials by at least 400% — and most likely by more.
The true number of identity-verified Americans Elect delegates comes into even sharper focus, if you line up Wachtel’s “only 300 out of tens of thousands of people” with another mathematical clue attributed to Wachtel
and first reported on 9 May by Jonathan Tilove of the Times-Picayune (emphasis mine):
...Wachtel said that “less than 1 percent have tried and failed to register”....
Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd had used this same number, in his response to a question about delegate verification that was asked of him during a Reddit forum on 6 March (emphasis mine):
Verification is going well, we're experiencing less than 1% of people having difficulty.
Here's the thing: If the total number of delegates
was the “more than 400,000” that Americans Elect
has been claiming since at least early March of this
year, then “less than 1 percent” would be a number
in the neighborhood of 4,000.
But 4,000 is nowhere close to 300.
If — as it seems reasonable to deduce — “only 300″ corresponds directly to “less than 1 percent,” then the total number of delegates is just north of 30,000.
This tracks well with the fact that there currently is
a total of only about 51,000 “support clicks” in the
entire Americans Elect online system and that delegates were permitted to click for as many candidates as they wished.
If the math I’m suggesting here is correct, then Americans Elect has exactly about three "tens of thousands" of delegates to its credit, meaning that —
as measured against its claims of "more than 400,000" delegates — Americans Elect has been inflating its delegate count by something like 1,333%.
The obvious caveat, of course, is that these calculations work, only if both of the numbers that Wachtel offers are accurate.
In any case: The verifiable estimate of the total number
of support clicks in the Americans Elect online system
The further the delegate count moves away from
51,000 and toward 0, the more believable — and, actually, better for Americans Elect — it seems, since
a lower count suggests a delegate pool that is small
but that is composed primarily of true believers who persevered to be verified and then all went on to click support for one or more candidates. (In theory, of course, this scenario also includes the possibility of a delegate pool of 30,000, to use the total suggested by Wachtel's numbers, but with less than half of these delegates doing all the clicking.)
As the delegate count moves in the opposite direction, approaching and surpassing 51,000, it would seem to
get less believable, since — especially if one assumes that some significant number of delegates did click for multiple candidates — higher counts suggest ever-higher numbers of people who went to all the trouble of getting verified and then couldn't be bothered to do anything with their empowered status.
If, in fact, the second scenario is as believable — or
even more so — than the first, well, that truly is a(nother) damning sign for Americans Elect.