PHOENIX (AP) — No Labels, a political organization that has alarmed some Democrats with talk of launching a third-party presidential candidate, has contemplated requiring a donation of at least $100 in order to cast a ballot at the group’s upcoming nominating convention, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The idea, which breaks from longstanding norms, would raise a significant hurdle to participating in the democratic process — in this case No Labels’ selection of its potential candidates for president and vice president. Neither the Democratic or Republican parties charge to vote at their conventions, where delegates vote for candidates chosen by voters through primaries or caucuses.
The possibility of requiring a donation was included in an internal survey No Labels conducted in September. Screenshots of the survey were provided to the AP by a person who was invited to take it. The survey explored how No Labels should select candidates to run on a bipartisan “unity ticket” if the 2024 election is headed for a rematch between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.
No Labels officials said in a statement Friday that they will not charge delegates.
“No Labels is focused on getting ballot access and we are still working on our process for how we would offer our ballot line to a Unity ticket,” No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancy said. “We can confirm no delegates to our convention will need to donate to No Labels or pay to be one.”
No Labels initially planned to release its candidate selection plans in October but has yet to do so. The survey provides a rare window into the deliberations and research of a group that could have a major impact on the 2024 election. In Arizona, No Labels has registered nearly 19,000 voters, a figure larger than Biden’s winning margin over Trump in 2020. Some Democrats fear a No Labels candidate would siphon enough votes from Biden to return Trump to the White House.
One of the group’s survey questions asked, “What is the fairest way to determine who can be a delegate” to the No Labels nominating convention? It offered four options: “active participation” in No Labels “over a defined period.” A donation of $100 “to demonstrate genuine commitment” was another, as was a signed commitment to support the group’s “policy priorities and governing principles.” Another option listed was, “anyone should be able to be a delegate if they are chosen by their local No Labels chapter.”
Neither Republicans nor Democrats require delegates to donate, said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution who has attended conventions for both major parties and wrote a book about the presidential nominating process.
“It’s very much a grassroots operation. It’s very much run through the local parties,” said Kamarck, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee.
No Labels has secured ballot access in 13 states and is working to get all 50 by Election Day.
The group’s leaders say they will only use move forward with plans to launch a third-party bid if their candidate has a viable path to victory. They insist that they will not be a spoiler.
But they’ve said little about how they will decide whether to go forward, or how they will nominate a candidate at their convention, which is scheduled for April in Dallas. Meanwhile, supporters of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday launched an effort to encourage the two retiring senators to seek the No Labels nomination.
The survey, which has over 70 questions, offers hints about how No Labels is developing those plans and their messaging. It also asks about the “most legitimate and credible way for No Labels to nominate their presidential candidates.”
The survey presented four options, including a convention with more than 1,000 people from all 50 states. A national primary involving “tens of millions of people who have expressed general interest in the No Labels effort” is another, as is a national primary involving the approximately 15,000 members of No Labels nationwide. Lastly, they ask if “a select and small group of diverse and distinguished leaders from No Labels” should “use their collective expertise” to choose a nominee.
The poll also asks about a variety of messages to best promote the No Labels cause and tests opinions toward the group.
It asks for input on “the most convincing and compelling” message that the No Labels ticket should use in order to not be considered a spoiler.
It also asks whether the person taking the survey would rather vote for a “bipartisan” or a “nonpartisan” candidate, and it probes their preferences between various terms that could be used to describe the No Labels ticket: an independent, third-party, unity, No Labels or “common sense” candidate.
It requests the top three things a person dislikes the most about the two-party system, without any option for people satisfied with the current system.
At the end, after questions about the problems with the two-party system and the best way to promote a third-party candidacy, it asks the person how likely they would be to vote for a third party.
Asking the questions in that order would tend to influence the results, which could be problematic if the data is used to make decisions or publicly promote them, said Paul Bentz, a pollster based in Phoenix.
“It’s highly likely they’ll have an artificially positive result,” Bentz said.