Young Voters and Americans Elect- Is There Interest?
by NextGen Journal | Everywhere
As the national conversation shifts to a probable Mitt Romney v. Barack Obama general election, NextGen Journal is providing a preview of one of the most critical themes for 2012: the youth vote. Throughout this week, we’ll be addressing the major questions about the 18-29 year old voting block, with analysis of the most essential data, expert interviews, and direct student perspectives. The focus for today: might Americans Elect’s efforts catch on with young voters?
More Americans are self-identifying as politically independent that at any point in recent memory- and in 2012, Americans Elect is aiming to capitalize on that. The movement’s basic purpose is to try to put an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states, and then to hold an online nominating convention to determine who the actual candidate should be.
Americans Elect has put particular emphasis on engaging young voters, who, according to recent polling from the Harvard Institute of Politics, might be open to such an effort. According to the IOP’s Fall 2011 survey, “Without much information other than a brief description, 37 percent of 18- to 29-year olds indicated that they would be either very or somewhat likely to participate (in Americans Elect’s online nominating convention).” That’s certainly not a bad start- and the organization itself has put particularly emphasis on reaching young voters, with over 200 campus bases across the country.
Of course, openness to an independent candidacy is one thing; actually establishing such a candidacy, and finding a candidate who could garner broad support, is a whole different story. But there appears to be at least some interest among young voters for such a movement. The question is- what is the Americans Elect itself doing to tap into that?
NGJ’s Connor Toohill interviewed Elliot Ackerman, the Chief Operating Officer of Americans Elect, to talk about Americans Elect and its overlap with our generation. That conversation follows:
Connor: At this point, it seems like the most likely general election matchup is probably Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama, two relatively moderate candidates. Why is a movement like Americans Elect even necessary in this election?
Elliot: Well, I don’t think this is just about the candidates or centrism, this is about getting an independent ticket in the race; to get it independent of the current political system that seems incapable of creating anything except for dysfunctional government. So the appetite that exists isn’t for some kind of centrist solution, it’s for independent leadership.
And just to add to that, one thing. We look at both of the candidates coming out, and they’re unable to lead because they’re creatures of the party and their special interests.
Connor: And why do you think this concept will appeal to young voters in particular?
Elliot: Well, I think that younger voters, they look around and everywhere else in their life, they’re presented with a myriad of choices. And our political life is the only place where we’re forced into these two funnels, and there’s no way to express yourself outside of the two major parties. Americans Elect is offering folks a way to express themselves on a wide range of issues, and get engaged in an election and put an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.
Connor: Now obviously, a fair amount depends on who the candidate actually is. Who do you think you will be able to get on the ticket, or at least, what kind of person are you looking for?
Elliot: Well, yeah, I would say that a fair amount depends on who the candidate is, but a fair amount also depends on the American people standing up and participating, and having more of a voice in our politics. I think that’s what this is about.
Connor: But in terms of what kind of person you’re looking for to be the Americans Elect candidate- because at one point, Donald Trump had talked about maybe syncing up before he endorsed Mitt Romney. Is it open to anyone, or is there a sort of person in particular that you think would be best?
Elliot: This is an open nominating process. And any of those people who announce, we as citizens don’t have to passively sit by and accept whatever leader a party presents to us. This is about the American people being the ones in the driver’s seat for our political life.
Connor: What kind of momentum are you seeing on college campuses for this?
Elliot: You know, we’re on over 200 college campuses. We’ve got a great college group, that are all very engaged in spreading the word of what Americans Elect is going to mean in 2012.
Connor: Last couple questions here: what do you say to young voters who like the concept of Americans Elect, but are concerned about the secrecy of those funding your organization?
Elliot: Well, the entire way we’re designed is so that those people basically gave us the loans to get started, and they can all get paid out of this thing. So that ultimately, this is a process that’s owned by the American people. And the people who made those contributions, they’re not getting any influence over this process. They’re just helping stand this thing up. So you know, this is all about creating more choice; not advocating for a candidate or advocating for any specific issue.
Connor: Do you believe your candidate will win the 2012 Presidential election?
Elliot: YesNextGen Journal is the website for the ‘next generation,' run by a nationwide team of college students.