If Americans Elect has its way, voters next year will have at least three choices for president: Democrat Barack Obama, the Republican nominee and a third candidate determined through a grassroots effort that skips the traditional primary and caucus hurdles.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization plans to hold an online nominating convention in 2012 to determine a ticket that could appear on ballots in all 50 states.

One of the first states Americans Elect has focused on is Hawaii.

The state Office of Elections is in the process of determining whether the group has submitted the necessary 691 signatures from currently registered voters to put a new political party on the ballot.

The formula is based on the 690,748 registered voters (691 is one-tenth of 1 percent) in the most recent general election.

“We submitted 950 signatures at the end of July, and we are just waiting for the certifications to be complete,” said Sarah Malm, chief communications officer for Americans Elect.

‘Still In Process’

The petition was submitted by Kellen Arno, the Americans Elect national field director.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Elections says the certification is still working its way through the process but it could be as soon as next week for a decision. She cautioned that there could be challenges to some of the signatures.

Malm says eight states have certified Americans Elect on their ballots: Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada, Alaska and Kansas. The group is waiting to hear from Colorado and Utah and is “on the ground” in Georgia.

The goal is to qualify for ballots in 28 states (including Hawaii) by the end of this year and to seek the remainder in 2012. The order of petitions is determined by the requirements of each state; for example, the deadline for Hawaii is 170 days from the primary — in this case, Feb. 23 for the Aug. 11 primary.

Americans Elect has collected 2 million signatures in 29 states, or more than two-thirds of the 2.9 million signatures required.

Not A Third Party

Third parties have made it onto presidential ballots before, representing Greens, Libertarians and other independents. It’s possible that a losing GOP candidate might also seek an independent run.

But Americans Elect is not about forming a third party but rather offering a third alternative to the entrenched two-party system. Its board of directors includes well-known national figures with diverse political views.

“The goal of Americans Elect is to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters — not the political system,” according to the group’s website.

To that end, “delegates” — the people who sign up online — answer surveys to determine political bent so they can be matched with leaders of similar ideologies. Delegates also select questions for the candidates.

The candidate will be selected through an online convention in June; he or she must then pick a running mate from a party other than their own. If the candidates can poll at least 15 percent, they could be invited to participate in the presidential debates.

Names mentioned as possible candidates include Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani (although it’s not clear that any of those people would challenge their party’s nominee).

“The major point is that we are really breaking a barrier of entry to create more options for the American people so that there aren’t just two choices, A and B, but really another ticket on the ballot that they can vote for,” said Malm. “And, you can become a delegate and really appreciate that you nominated that ticket. It’s another option for really engaging and participating in the political process.”

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