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2012 Spoiler Alert: What Exactly Is 'Americans Elect'?

A privately funded effort seeks to nominate an independent presidential candidate using Internet voting.

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Americans Elect officials also have refused to disclose details about individual state spending. "We don’t talk about specific budget numbers in each state," says Byrd, a former spokesperson for Massachusetts Govs. Mitt Romney and Deval Patrick. "What we will say is that it is an expensive proposition."

The source of Americans Elect's money is not the only cause for concern. Pamela Smith, president of, a voters' advocacy group, questions the group's reliance on internet voting. Smith and other election experts argue that it is insecure and exceedingly difficult to audit.

Kahlil Byrd and Dan Winslow agree that internet voting is not a reliable tool for general or primary elections. But they insist that what Americans Elect is doing is "very different," and that the voting in the online convention will be audited. By who? Americans Elect is "in the early stages of those conversations," Byrd says.

Based on what Americans Elect officials have told her in a series of conversations, Smith remains unconvinced that they have brought on the right people and the right technology to implement a transparent, easily audited internet voting system. "If you allow it to be used in public elections without assurance that the results are verifiably accurate, that is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy," she says.

But Americans Elect's national profile continues to grow. According to its website, it has already collected over 2 million signatures nationwide in its effort to get on state ballots, and drawn suggestions from over 6.5 million people to help draw up a party platform—all this, even as concerns about its dark money and voting system continue to mount.

"They say…its time to stop playing by the old rules," Fred Wertheimer says. "But these are the old rules that they're trying to play by."

Siddhartha Mahanta is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.