National: Presidential race surges past $1 billion mark | USA Today

Fundraising in the presidential contest has zoomed past the $1 billion mark, fueled by the dozens of super-wealthy Americans bankrolling super PACs that have acted as shadow campaigns for White House contenders. Presidential candidates and the super PACs closely aligned with them had raised a little more than $1 billion through the end of February, newly released campaign reports show. By comparison, the presidential fundraising by candidates and their super PACs had hit $402.7 million at this point in the 2012 election, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute. The price tag of the White House contest puts it roughly on par with the value of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, which Forbes this week pegged as worth $1.05 billion, but it’s far less than the nearly $7 billion American consumers spent last year to celebrate Halloween. New figures show that super PACs and their super-wealthy patrons are footing more of the cost of running for the presidency. Super PACs now account for nearly 40% of all presidential fundraising, up from about 22% at this point four years ago.

Editorials: The Language Barrier in the Voting Booth | Terry Ao Minnis & Adam Ambrogi/Governing

During the Democratic presidential caucus in Nevada last month, the issue of language assistance in elections came up front and center — and it was not pretty. Fingers pointed in all directions about what actually happened and who was to blame, but what is clear is that there were caucus participants who needed assistance in Spanish to fully understand the process and their options and that they did not receive this essential help. This incident highlights how important language assistance in the political process is and why more must be done to ensure that language needs are being accommodated. Today in the United States, one in five people speak a language other than English at home, and of that population who are 15 or older 42 percent report having some difficulty with the English language. Despite the increases in the eligible voting populations of Latinos and Asian-Americans in recent decades, according to the Pew Research Center there continues to be a 15-20 percent gap in voting participation rates between those voters and whites. While a variety of factors can contribute to a voter’s inability to participate in the election process, in many communities language barriers are a huge obstacle.

Voting Blogs: Abysmal Voter Turnout and an Electoral Dinosaur: Indiana’s Meaningless Off-Year Municipal Elections | State of Elections

All politics is local. That truism (often wrongly attributed to former Rep. Tip O’Neill) has long encouraged politicians to remember the people back home because, ultimately, those people will vote based on the issues that matter to them. But politics is looking a lot less local now. Local concerns have taken a backseat to partisan politics, and local candidates are looking more and more like extensions of their national counterparts. Perhaps these changes can help explain why municipal election voter turnout is plunging across the United States. Indiana, the state with the lowest voter turnout in the country for the 2014 midterm elections, held its most recent off-year municipal elections on November 3.

Arizona: Voting Problems Are More Complicated Than They Look | TPM

Reports of Arizona voters waiting for as long as fives hours to cast their ballots is bringing intense scrutiny on local elections officials as well as renewed criticism of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that allowed them to make major changes to polling plans without the approval of the federal government. Most of the coverage since Tuesday’s voting problems has focused on two things: First, Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populated region, reduced polling places from 200 to 60 in an effort to save money; and second, that’s the kind of change in the voting regimen that federal officials would have blocked until the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. But the picture is more complicated, voting rights experts and former Justice Department officials tell TPM. One key point that some early reports bashing Maricopa County failed to make was it did not simply reduce the number of polling places. Rather it was a transformation to a vote centers system, which if done correctly, brings some perks voting rights advocates generally favor.

Arizona: Election Official Apologizes for Long Wait at Polls| The New York Times

A protester was led off in handcuffs from the visitors’ gallery of the Arizona Legislature on Monday amid a fractious debate over Primary Day last week, when a drastic cutback in polling locations left tens of thousands of Arizonans unable to vote, forced to cast provisional ballots or made to wait in long lines for hours in the high heat. As the anger bubbled over within a packed State Capitol, a sheepish election official blamed the chaos on poor planning and a misguided attempt to save money by closing poll locations. “I apologize profusely — I can’t go back and undo it,” said Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County recorder, during a hearing of the Arizona House Elections Committee on Monday as more than 100 voters listened. Maricopa County, which is Arizona’s most populous and includes the greater Phoenix area, had slashed the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012.

Florida: Election officials want fixes for ‘historically flawed’ voting system | Tampa Bay Times

Another Florida election is over, but another Florida election controversy is just beginning. In the aftermath of the passionate outpouring of support for Donald Trump, some voters complained that when they went to the polls on March 15, they were given ballots without Trump’s name. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that hundreds of Palm Beach County voters received ballots for unaffiliated no-party or “NPA” voters, which means those voters could not vote for president in either party because Florida is a “closed primary” state. Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams identified about 2,000 people who updated their drivers’ license information at a local tax collector’s office did not realize that they were required to again choose their political party affiliation. Voters who don’t check that box are automatically classified as NPA voters — and the problem wasn’t discovered until those voters showed up to vote.

Hawaii: Amid delays, the Internet turned to a Google doc for caucus results | USA Today

Saturday marked the first time Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders swept a full round of caucuses, defeating front-runner Hillary Clinton in all three of the day’s presidential contests. But when the mainstream media was nearly silent on his victory, voters took the electoral process into their own hands. Overnight, a Google document built by a handful of strangers became the go-to source for the caucus results. Its creators were the first to project Sanders’ victory, as the mainstream media waited on stalling, overwhelmed caucus organizers. As organizers in Hawaii scrambled to gather results, Alec Salisbury compiled his own set of stats from his computer in his Ithaca College dorm. With a group of three to 10 strangers, the 20-year-old college student broke the story of Sanders’ landslide victory.

Illinois: Budget mess could mean long lines, headaches on Election Day | The State Journal-Register

A sweeping new election law that was intended to increase voter turnout in time for the presidential contest and a critical U.S. Senate race may instead cause greater frustration among voters due to Illinois lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget, with officials warning of possible long lines, fewer safeguards against voter fraud and other costly headaches come November. The bill, pushed through the Legislature in the final weeks of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s term, required several changes that traditionally benefit Democrats, such as same-day voter registration and expanded early voting. While those pieces of the law will be in place come Nov. 8, some local election officials say they’ve stuck with the bill for additional equipment and staffing. And the nearly $4 million that state election officials said they’d need in the first two years for other changes wasn’t approved by the Legislature. The standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and majority

Kentucky: Early voting bill still in Senate committee | Commonwealth Journal

A bill that would allow a minimum of 12 days of early, no-excuse voting before Election Day by all registered voters in Kentucky, is currently in the Senate’s Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection Committee, and apparently at this point has not been scheduled for a hearing. Numbered HB 290, the measure passed the House last week by a vote of 57-37. If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, it would allow early voting by all registered voters ahead of the November 8 general election. It is uncertain at the moment if the bill, sponsored by Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, has been placed on the Senate committee’s agenda for a hearing.

Vermont: Senate approves changes to the state’s public campaign financing law | Vermont Press Bureau

The Senate has given its approval to a bill intended to make publicly financed political campaigns more viable. By a vote of 19 to 6, Senate lawmakers Friday approved S.220, a bill that moves up the date a candidate seeking public financing can start a campaign, which supporters say will allow these candidates to better compete with those who are privately financed. “My feeling is, we shouldn’t privilege publicly financed candidates, but we shouldn’t punish them, either,” said Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, the lead sponsor of the bill. The punishment Baruth is referring to is the amount of lead time a privately financed candidate has over one seeking public financing.

International: Are Teenagers Mature Enough to Vote? | VoA News

In Ohio’s presidential primary recently, 17-year-olds were permitted to vote. That’s unusual because the voting age in the United States is 18. But during this election campaign, some people want to change the voting rules. In Ohio, a judge ruled that 17-year-olds who turn 18 before the November 8 general election can vote. Several groups, including Generation Citizen, want local governments to permit all 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. Generation Citizen argues that lowering the voting age will increase interest in government and politics. “A lower voting age would involve parents, teachers, and community members in the process of learning to vote, and ultimately voting themselves, raising adult voter turnout,” said Oliver York, age 16. He is a junior at a San Francisco high school and working with Generation Citizen’s “Vote 16 USA Campaign.”

Philippines: Comelec website hacked | The Philippine Star

The official website of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was hacked Sunday night, more than a month before the May 9 polls, raising fears that the voting machines may also be compromised. The poll body’s database was leaked online after hackers defaced its website, Comelec officials, however, allayed public fears about the security of the automated election system (AES) after the hacking. The database was published on two mirror sites by a hacker group affiliated with Anonymous Philippines. The hackers urged the Comelec to implement the security features of the vote counting machines. The group said the database has a file size of around 340 gigabytes, with some of the tables supposedly encrypted by the Comelec. “But we have the algorithm to decrypt those data,” the hackers said. “What happens when the electoral process is so mired with questions and controversies? Can the government still guarantee that the sovereignty of the people is upheld? We request the implementation of the security features on the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines,” said Anonymous.

Russia: Ex-rights ombudsman named Russia’s election chief ahead of polls | APP

Russia’s former human rights ombudsman Ella Pamfilova was on Monday appointed the country’s top elections chief ahead of parliamentary polls this year. Her candidacy was approved by the majority of members of the central election commission.Russia will hold parliamentary elections this September amid a prolonged economic crisis due in part to the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions over the Kremlin’s role in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin earlier this month dropped the controversial chief of the election commission Vladimir Churov dubbed the “magician” by the marginalised opposition.

Thailand: Thai Election Panel Expects 80 Percent Turnout for Referendum | VoA News

Thailand’s election commission said on Monday it expected 80 percent of eligible voters to turn out for an August 7 referendum on a controversial constitution that critics have vowed to boycott. The referendum, pushed back from July, will be Thailand’s first return to the ballot-box since junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a May 2014 coup, following months of political unrest. Critics of the draft charter, who include the main political parties, say it will enshrine the military’s influence and is unlikely to resolve bitter political disputes. “Around 51 million people have the right to vote. The turnout is expected to be 80 percent,” Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission, told Reuters.

South Korea: Parties gear up for April 13 election | The Korea Times

Rival parties are entering campaign mode for the April 13 general election, launching planning committees following the wrap-up of candidate nominations marred by factional feuds. With just 17 days before the polls, each party has set lofty goals in the parliamentary race. The ruling Saenuri Party aims at securing a majority of seats in the 300 unicameral Assembly, while the Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) is seeking to win 130 seats. The minor opposition People’s Party is expecting 20 seats to form a negotiation body. However, political pundits say that they all face major hurdles in the race, with a number of variables rendering the election highly unpredictable, including a possible alliance of opposition forces. How independent candidates who quit the ruling party after its nomination conflicts will affect voter sentiment also remains a key variable.