Editorials: Americans Elect meets reality: third-party effort may be viable — just not now | Doyle McManus/latimes.com

What happens if you start a political party and nobody comes? Six months ago, a newfangled third party burst onto the scene, full of hope and promise. It was called Americans Elect, and it sought to give voters a choice many said they were looking for: “centrist” candidates who could break the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington. In its founders’ heads danced visions of middle-of-the-road candidates who could transform American politics: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman Jr. Wealthy donors invested millions in a fancy website for an Internet primary, signed up 420,000 would-be “delegates” and got on the ballot in 29 states. Newspaper columnists, including me, pondered what effect it might have on the election. Then the grand idea collided with reality.

Editorials: Ranked-Choice Ballot Upholds Voter Rights | Richie and Gronke/Roll Call

Once Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination contest, their South Carolina and Florida backers who cast ballots early, including many military voters living overseas, essentially wasted their votes. They voted for candidates who didn’t want their support. Florida and South Carolina voters are not alone. Several upcoming primary states allow “no excuse required” absentee voting, meaning a far higher percentage of votes are now cast early. More than a quarter of Florida’s 400,000 absentee ballots had already been returned before Perry and Huntsman withdrew, and in 2008 nearly two-thirds of all Tennessee ballots were cast early. If you add in other states, more than a million voters have received ballots with the names of Perry, Huntsman and fellow candidate dropouts Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Although many “early voters” cast ballots close to Election Day, that option isn’t available to service personnel whose ballot may need to traverse 10,000 miles.

National: Senate Dems plan super PAC hearings | MSNBC

Senate Democrats decried the influx of millions in unregulated dollars in the 2012 elections, announcing Wednesday that they will hold hearings looking into the impact of super PACs. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrats’ messaging chief in the Senate, announced that the Rules committee will begin hearings this month on super PACs. Joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Al Franken (D-MN), Schumer pointed to Mitt Romney’s victory in Florida’s Republican primary as evidence of the outsize influence of super PACs. He then bashed Karl Rove-tied groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS for raising money by the millions without having to disclose all of its donors.

Florida: Confusion feared since ballots bear names of presidential contenders no longer in race | Palm Beach Post

Only four candidates are facing-off in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, but there are nine names to choose from on the ballot. Although five candidates have dropped out of the race, including Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, their names are still on the ballot. Palm Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher said Friday she is worried the ballots may confuse voters. She wants to make sure residents don’t “waste” their vote by choosing a candidate who dropped out. “It is a statewide issue,” said Bucher, who has discussed her concerns with the Secretary of State’s office. “I am just concerned that people will waste their vote, in what appears to be a very close election.”

Virginia: Judge rejects Perry, GOP hopefuls for Virginia ballot | USAToday

A federal judge today rejected Rick Perry’s lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ballot requirements, meaning Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be the only major GOP candidates on the ballot. U.S. District Judge John Gibney said in his ruling that Perry — along with GOP candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum who joined in the Texas governor’s lawsuit — waited too long to file the complaint against the state’s ballot requirements. “They knew the rules in Virginia many months ago … In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair,” Gibney wrote.

Virginia: Judge to Rule on Virginia Primary Ballot Friday | NBC4 Washington

As a result of Virginia law, some residents of the state may not have the opportunity to vote for their desired candidate in the March 6 primary. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman have joined Rick Perry in seeking a court order to be included on Virginia’s primary ballot. However, a federal judge did say on Tuesday that the candidates are likely to prevail in the case because of a possibly unconstitutional provision.

Arizona: Huntsman misses Arizona ballot after paperwork error | The Hill

Forms submitted without Jon Huntsman’s notarized signature could mean that the former Utah governor will not be able to get on the ballot in neighboring Arizona, spelling more trouble for an already long-shot candidacy. A spokesman for the Arizona secretary of state told The Associated Press that while Huntsman filed his paperwork on time, it was rejected because it was missing a notarized signature from the candidate. Huntsman does not currently appear on the state’s list of Republican candidates for the coming primary. The Huntsman campaign says it plans to appeal the decision and believes it will be able to get back onto the ballot.

Virginia: Federal judge says to wait on Virginia GOP ballot | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A federal judge has ordered Virginia’s 134 local electoral boards not to mail out any ballots for the March 6 Republican primary until after a hearing Friday. U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. also told the Virginia State Board of Elections to direct the local boards to refrain, to the extent possible, from printing ballots until the hearing on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s emergency challenge can be held.

Editorials: Super PACs alter the dynamics of fundraising | The Washington Post

Well-established candidates have always had the edge in fundraising, but under the new rules governing money in politics, it looks as if the rich are just getting richer. The vast majority of the $14 million in spending from “super PACs,” a new type of political group, has been spent on behalf of three candidates: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman Jr., federal records show. Those are the same three candidates already most reliant on money from large donors.

“It’s just proven to be a vehicle for getting around contribution limits,” said Michael Malbin, a scholar at the Campaign Finance Institute, which advocates for regulations encouraging small donors. “It’s made for people who’ve already maxed out.”

Two years after the Supreme Court decided the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, it is becoming clear that the super PACs created under the new rules will act as a counterweight to a rise in online grass-roots fundraising. The online efforts, which tend to attract small donations, have been driving unconventional contenders in the GOP field, including Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). (Bachmann dropped out of the race last week after a sixth-place finish in Iowa.)

Illinois: Santorum, Gingrich get on Illinois Republican primary ballot | chicagotribune.com

Surprise Iowa caucus near-winner Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich filed Friday to secure spots on Illinois’ March 20 primary ballot, adding their names to those of Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Perry.

On the last day to submit paperwork, Santorum filed only 41 candidates for national convention nominating delegates out of 54 possible slots among the state’s new 18 congressional districts. Perry, the Texas governor, filed only one delegate candidate. Romney, Paul and Gingrich filed full elected-delegate slates. Not making the ballot or filing delegate candidates was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has made a strong showing in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary a priority.