Reporter Bob Mercer looks up crotchetily from his morning coffee and asks just what Americans Elect is trying to achieve with the petitions it submitted this week to the South Dakota Secretary of State's office. Mercer's point has merit:

  • The Americans Elect press release refers to the 15,609 signatures it submitted to Pierre Thursday as "nearly double the amount required." The only petition requirement fitting that math is the 7,928 signatures required for a new political party to organize and participate in the primary election.
  • Americans Elect says it is "a nonpartisan nomination."
  • In direct response to the FAQ, "Is Americans Elect a 3rd Party?"Americans Elect says it is a '2nd way' to nominate a President, not a traditional 3rd party."
  • Americans Elect says it is "a neutral, nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any political party, ideology or candidate."

Americans Elect makes reasonably clear that they are not a political party. This nonpartisanship is problematic, because SDCL 12-6-3.2requires nominees to be registered voters with that party affiliation. But if Americans Elect is simply filing for technicality's sake so its candidates can officially register and appear on the ballot under the "Americans Elect" party label, Americans Elect still has to follow the South Dakota statutory process of submitting slates of delegates and alternates for declared presidential candidates by March 27 (that's Tuesday!) and participating in the statewide primary on June 5. Americans Elect will not participate in South Dakota's June 5 primary. It will select its Presidential ticket through a national online caucus. It will allow members of any party to participate in its nomination process, even if those party members also vote in their own party primaries, and that would probably violate South Dakota election law.

To stay clear of all those primary requirements, Americans Elect likely must avoid party status in South Dakota, conduct its nomination process as it sees fit, then get its candidates on the South Dakota ballot as Independents. As. Mr. Mercer points out, that process requires filing 3,171 signatures by August 7. And if that's the case, what is the point of the 15,609 signatures submitted this week?

Mr. Mercer raises very useful questions. Americans Elect has a bunch of smart people at the helm; let's hope they can answer these questions.

Update 12: 57 MDT: Americans Elect better have their poop in a group: The Displaced Plainsman needs a good Presidential candidate!