The so-called #NeverTrump movement has not come up with a candidate to stop Donald Trump’s run for the White House, but a new group is trying to make sure that if they do, that candidate will have a place on ballots nationwide. John Kingston, a longtime Republican donor and ally of Mitt Romney, has put up seed money for a new group called Better for America to get a spot on ballots for a presidential candidate to be named later. “You have this moment this year that if you keep the option open, I believe there will be a time when the right American steps forward and says ‘this is country in crisis,’” Kingston told USA TODAY. “I’m basically keeping the option open for these folks.” The group, which launched in mid-June, has begun petitioning for ballot access using Better for America as a party name, planning to add a candidate name later. “You can get on a lot of state ballots with a party line, not a candidate line,” Kingston said.
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, said that is correct, but without a candidate, the deadline in some states is fast approaching. Only Texas and North Carolina have so far closed their ballots for the general election, but Alabama, Arizona, Illinois and Indiana could all be out of reach for a party with no candidate by the end of the month, Winger said.
Getting on enough ballots to be relevant in the general election requires money, first and foremost. Kingston said he has made “a seven-figure investment,” but Khalil Byrd, who ran a ballot access initiative for the 2012 election called Americans Elect, said it could require “north of $10 million to do both the legal work and the signature gathering around the country,” and perhaps even closer to $20 million. The group will have to collect tens of thousands of signatures nationwide, and Winger said petition circulators are now charging about $3 per signature.
Getting on the ballot is only half the problem. The other issue is that the group does not have a candidate. Americans Elect was created to offer an alternative, crowd-sourced candidate in 2012, but it ceased operations before the election when none of its proposed candidates generated enough support to win the group’s nomination.