Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It Started Out As A Joke...

... and I guess it still is. Ever the curious mind, when all this talk of an independent Presidential candidate took off with Trump assuming the mantle of presumed GOP nominee, I got curious what it would actually take to make a real run. Just to get on the ballot in most states is incredibly laborious. You need tens, sometimes over 100,000 signatures from registered voters in each state to make the ballot. The Texas deadline has already passed. No candidate getting in now could even win.

But in the course of informing myself on the process, I noticed a little comment at the bottom of the chart,

Two states (Colorado and Louisiana) allow independent candidates to pay filing fees in lieu of submitting petitions.

Louisiana still has a lot of hoops to jump through with their filing requirements, even if signatures aren't among them, but Colorado, ever the rebellious, libertarian state, has just a fee. For a scant 1,000 (nonrefundable - they make this very clear) dollars, any eligible candidate (35 years old, natural born citizen, and 14+ year resident) can have their name added to the ballot. There's a couple other hoops to jump through (see below), but all very doable.

I thought, "wouldn't it be funny to get my name on the Colorado Presidential ballot?" I mean, most of my family lives there. It would be cool for any parent to check the box next to their child's name when voting for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! I wouldn't win, obviously, but I don't think I'd want to anyway. Besides, I'm a little scared my Dad might vote for Trump if I don't present a palatable alternative.

That's a real issue, though - not so much Trump (although Trump is an issue), but there are tons of people out there who don't like either major party candidate, but still feel a real, deep compulsion to vote. Getting my name on the ballot gives people an alternative - and one that can maybe make them smile a little in the ballot box rather than groan.

The biggest problem, though: I don't have a thousand dollars - and if you think my wife is going to sign off on spending even $10 on this silly campaign, you don't know my wife. The solution: crowd-funding. I needed to set up a gofundme campaign, or something of the like to make it work. But I didn't think people would give $10 if they thought I was just going to pocket the money - so I had to find a site that allows you to set an all or nothing campaign. Indiegogo came out on top - this way, I either get to the full $1,000 or none of the donors pays a dime.

But before I could go about setting up the campaign, there was one little thing to take care of. Colorado's first step to filing is to declare yourself a candidate - and the Federal Election Commission has a long and lengthy, very technical, legally intimidating process for doing such. You have to register a campaign committee with names and social security numbers, etc - you have to have a Treasurer and file quarterly reports of receipts and expenses - not to mention all the laws a candidate for President has to follow. It's tough.

Then I noticed another little caveat at the bottom of a page - it said, unless you raise or spend $5,000, none of these requirements applies to you. I even sent an email to the FEC to confirm that if I only spent, say, $1,000 or so, I'd be free to get on the ballot without federal filing requirements. I received an email reply from one Mr. Christopher Berg, Public Affairs Specialist with the FEC confirming that my campaign could proceed.

The campaign was pretty easy to set up. I filmed a short video to introduce myself and the project (it sounds a little artsy because I tried Kickstarter first and got rejected... for not being artsy enough) and I shred the link a couple dozen times.

Within a few minutes, I had my first donation - from my Dad - what a vote of confidence.* I never expected to get donations over $10 - that seemed like the right amount for a project of this nature - and although 100 of those seemed difficult, I gave myself two months to pull it off (still giving me a week or so to get all the forms submitted for the filing deadline in Colorado). To my surprise, the next donation was $20, from a college friend I probably have not kept it good enough contact with over the years. Pretty cool. Then another friend gave $100 and I started to think this might really have a chance. Still 87 donations away from the goal, but it had only been two hours!

We left the next day for my sister-in-law's graduation and I try not to spend too much time on the internet during family gatherings, so when I awoke that Saturday morning to a text from my brother, I was till groggy and didn't quite understand what he said, "Jeremy gave you the $1,000."

After a few beats of confusion, I scrambled for my laptop only to find, indeed, my whole project was now completely funded - in just a few days.

You see, I have this cousin (well, I have a lot of cousins, but this one in particular), Jeremy, I've jokingly called the "black sheep" of the family - not because he's bad at all, really (he's not), but because he's so relatively normal - he just never seemed to fit in well with the rest of us odd, strange, people. His family lived farther away, we saw them less often - he's really the cousin I know least well.

Anyway, he's also the most famous person I know personally. Jeremy is the voice and co-writer of cinemasins. You and several million other people may subscribe to their youtube channel - you've probably seen one of the videos, at least. Apparently, this youtube thing is a going venture and he's got $1,000 laying around to fund a crazy joke (I think also his recognition of the humor in this whole attempted campaign betrays that perhaps the outsider aura he's gave off to my childhood self was a front, or perhaps a serious misinterpretation by me).

Anyway, the money is there - and I'm very grateful.

I let the $100 donor, Bruce Barnard, be my Vice President (Jeremy politely declined) and my brother Jordan is collecting the signatures of nine registered Colorado voters who would serve in the Electoral College, should I win the state. The only remaining hurdle is filling out the brief paperwork and getting it notarized.

Now, I have to say, this is sometimes a bit embarrassing - like yesterday, when they called a nice woman at my local bank back early from lunch to notarize my form - having to explain the whole story in brief and apologize for interrupting her lunch was awkward. The tension was broken, however, by my four year old daughter yelling, in the bank, near the top of her lungs, "No, don't do it, daddy, don't run for President!"

But run, I will. I'm too far in to back out now.

Over the course of the next six months or so, I'll put together a few videos or something to try and make people laugh and, who knows, maybe catch some viral mania. I'm not trying to win and I don't expect to. I just wanted a funny story to tell for the rest of my life, but, to be honest, it would be kinda awesome if a bunch of strangers actually found out about this whole thing and got my votes to double digits.

So if you have friends or relatives in Colorado. Encourage them to vote. Help me get to 7th place in the Colorado election for President. I feel like 7th would be a real achievement.

*Pun intended.

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