LIVE UPDATES: Election Day in The Lowcountry

Metro Voters head to vote for the November 2, 2010 general election, at election headquarters. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 10/29/10

Brad Nettles

WASHINGTON -- Lots of people complain about the shortcomings of the country's two-party system for picking a president. Now a nonpartisan group is gathering millions of petition signatures -- and dollars -- to offer people a Plan B.

Americans Elect, which grew out of a failed 2008 effort to provide an alternative in the presidential race, aims to secure a slot on the November 2012 ballot in all 50 states for a to-be-determined candidate who would be nominated in the nation's first online convention next summer.

The group, whose backers include Republicans and Democrats eager to open up the political process, has raised $22 million so far and secured ballot slots in Florida, Alaska, Nevada, Kansas, Arizona and Michigan.

It has submitted signatures for certification in California, Utah and Hawaii.

Americans Elect, whose slogan is "pick a president, not a party," appears to be on track to secure ballot access across the country, with 1.9 million signatures collected so far.

But how it will effect the 2012 race depends on what kind of candidate its delegates select in next June's online convention, which will be open to any registered voter.

"It's a fascinating experiment in trying to empower the disenfranchised center in American politics," said Will Marshall, one of the group's leaders and the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank.