AUGUSTA — Mainers will have more choices for president in November now that the Americans Elect Party has qualified for the ballot, former Maine gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler said Monday.

“We are seeing an alarming shrinkage in the number of American people who are participating in the political process,” said Cutler, an Americans Elect board member. “They feel disengaged from it. They feel isolated by it. We’re trying to change that.”

Cutler, an independent who finished second in the race for governor in 2010, said Americans Elect has already gained ballot access in 15 states, and is working toward putting its candidate before voters in all 50 states. The party will begin accepting candidate nominations online in the coming weeks and a candidate will be selected during an online convention in June.

Americans Elect is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that does not reveal its financial supporters. Cutler said that’s because at least some of them fear retribution from Democrats or Republicans if it becomes known they are contributors.

Cutler, a former Carter administration official, said he will not seek the party’s nomination, but that he’s involved in the project because he believes the decline of traditional Republican and Democratic parties means fewer people are involved in choosing the president.

“We’re trying to open it up,” he said. “We’re trying to engage people. We’re trying to increase the opportunities for participation.”

Americans Elect is an online effort to allow voters from across the country to nominate a candidate for president. The candidate can be independent, or a member of one of the two major political parties. Candidates who are finalists must choose a running mate of a different party or one who is independent.

The online convention will be held in June.

Voters can sign up as delegates so they can participate at

Mainers aren’t shy about supporting third party or independent candidates. In 1992, independent Ross Perot finished second in two states: Maine and Utah. While Bill Clinton won Maine with 39 percent of the vote, Perot finished second with 30.44 percent of the vote, while George H.W. Bush placed third with 30.39 percent.

And the Green Independent Party has had official ballot status in Maine since 1998.

To get on the ballot, Americans Elect had to submit at least 28,638 signatures — 5 percent of the total vote cast for governor in 2010 — from those who are unenrolled or members of the Americans Elect Party.

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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