Latest stories

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 23, 2020 Edition #102

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at Indiana’s move into stage 5 of reopening, the return of in-class instruction in Florida’s largest school district, a featured story from the 1918 influenza pandemic, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 23, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that the Department of Health had released an order allowing self-serve food stations to reopen across the state on Sept. 24.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): Health and Human Services Director Mark Ghaly announced Riverside, Alameda, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, and Solano counties could move from purple into the red phase of reopening. Ghaly also said El Dorado, Lassen, and Nevada counties could move into the orange phase, and Mariposa County could enter the yellow phase. The changes were effective Sept. 22.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): The Miami-Dade County Public Schools board voted Sept. 22 to return students to in-class instruction. Prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and students with special needs will return on Oct. 14. All others will return on Oct. 21. Families can opt for virtual learning. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest district in the United States.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 23, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that Indiana would enter the last stage of reopening, called Stage 5, on Sept. 26. Holcolmb said that the state would announce updated guidelines for Stage 5 on Thursday. Previously, Stage 5 allowed for most types of businesses to operate without restrictions, including restaurants, bars, malls, gyms, and amusement parks. When the state enters Stage 5, masks will still be required in public areas.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Jefferson Parish met state requirements to reopen bars starting Sept. 23.
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) amended the state’s Standing Order to allow individuals to be tested for the coronavirus without a written order from a doctor.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Sept. 22, Karen Salmon, the Maryland Superintendent of Schools, announced that she had approved in-person reopening plans for every school district in Maryland.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Sept. 23, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he would ease restrictions on restaurants beginning Sept. 28. On that day, the number of patrons allowed per table will increase from six to 10, and restaurants will be allowed to use bar seating for food service. Bars and nightclubs, however, will remain closed.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) added Colorado, Oregon, and Rhode Island to the list of high-risk states. She moved Michigan and Hawaii to the low-risk classification. Individuals arriving from high-risk states are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Sept. 23, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that stadiums and outdoor event venues can resume operation at 7% capacity on Oct. 2.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced the release of a new coronavirus exposure alert app that notifies users if they have been in contact with other users who later test positive for the virus.
  • Vermont (divided government): On Sept. 22, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French announced that schools would advance to step 3 of reopening, which allows for inter-scholastic competitions, on Sept. 26. Step 3 also permits schools to use common areas like gyms and small groups of students.

Daily feature: The 1918 influenza pandemic

Every Wednesday, we feature a newspaper story written during the 1918 influenza pandemic that illustrates how the country contended with a national health emergency in the midst of an election year. To see more stories from 1918, click here.

On Nov. 5, 1918, the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune reported on a meeting by the local health board to consider lifting an order that prohibited public gatherings.

“Maine public interest relative to the influenza situation in Cincinnati is centered on the meeting of the Board of Health Wednesday and the action the board will take in the matter of lifting the ban on business, amusements, and public gatherings. The public health situation continues to improve, according to the Health Officer Peters, and it is predicted that Cincinnati will be practically free from the malady within a week or ten days.

Dr. Peters is preparing a statement on the influenza in Cincinnati from the time it first appeared to date and is compiling official reports from twenty large cities of the United States showing the ravages of the disease in those centers as compared with Cincinnati. This statement, together with a number of suggestions, will be given Wednesday to the members of the Board of Health and it will rest with that body to when the ban will be lifted.

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

  • On Sept. 17, a joint group of businesses and the parents of public school children filed suit against West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Plaintiffs are challenging what they call his “never-ending executive orders mandating restrictions of constitutionally protected activities.” The plaintiffs allege Justice’s COVID-19 orders violate the U.S. Constitution’s Takings Clause and encroach on its guarantees of substantive due process, procedural due process, equal protection, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression. The plaintiffs allege Justice’s “actions in classifying business as ‘non-essential’ are arbitrary and irrational,” as is his “blanket closure of private or public schools.” Neither Justice nor his office has commented. The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.


Pennsylvania modifies several mail-in voting procedures

In the last two weeks, a court order and a settlement have resulted in modifications to several mail-in voting procedures in Pennsylvania.

State directs counties not to reject ballots due to signature mismatch

On Sept. 14, the League of Women Voters and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh dropped a lawsuit against the state after election officials issued guidance directing counties not to reject a mail-in ballot due solely to a perceived mismatch between the signature on the return envelope and the signature on the voter’s registration record.

The guidance, released Sept. 11, lays out the following directions for county officials (emphasis added):

If the Voter’s Declaration on the return envelope is signed and the county board is satisfied that the declaration is sufficient, the mail-in or absentee ballot should be approved for canvassing unless challenged in accordance with the Pennsylvania Election Code.The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections.[1]

State supreme court extends mail-in ballot receipt deadlines, authorizes drop-box returns

On Sept. 17, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline and authorizing the use of drop boxes for returning mail-in ballots in the general election. Mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3, and ballots lacking any indication they were sent after this date, would be accepted if received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Writer for the court’s majority, Justice Max Baer said:

Under our Extraordinary Jurisdiction, this Court can and should act to extend the received-by deadline for mail-in ballots to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters. … We additionally conclude that voters’ rights are better protected by addressing the impending crisis at this point in the election cycle on a statewide basis rather than allowing the chaos to brew, creating voter confusion regarding whether extensions will be granted, for how long, and in what counties.[1]

The high court declined to bar officials from rejecting mail-in ballots submitted without secrecy envelopes (sometimes referred to as “naked ballots”). State authorities had previously advised counties that they should count naked ballots.

Justices Debra Todd, Kevin M. Dougherty, and David N. Wecht joined Baer’s opinion. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justices Sallie Mundy and Christine Donohue dissented in part from the majority opinion. Baer, Donohue, Wecht, Dougherty, and Todd are Democrats. Saylor and Mundy are Republicans.

Political context

Pennsylvania is a key battleground in the presidential contest. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in Pennsylvania 48.2-47.5 percent. Barack Obama (D) carried Pennsylvania in both 2008 and 2012, defeating John McCain (R) in 2008 54.5-44.2 percent and Mitt Romney (R) in 2012 52-46.6 percent.

Ballotpedia has identified four of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts as battlegrounds in the general election: the 1st, 7th, 8th, and 17th districts. A Republican represents the 1st District. Democrats represent the other three. Overall, Pennsylvania’s current U.S. House delegation is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Absentee/mail-in voting modifications since our last issue

Since our Sept. 9 edition, we’ve tracked the following absentee/mail-in voting modifications:

  • Arizona: On Sept. 10, Judge Douglas Rayes of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ordered election officials to give voters until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after the election to sign their vote-by-mail ballot envelopes if they failed to sign at the time they submitted the ballots.
  • Louisiana: On Sept. 16, Chief Judge Shelly Deckert Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered election officials to make available to voters in the Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 elections the same COVID-19 absentee/mail-in ballot application used in the state’s summer elections. This application offers COVID-19-specific reasons for requesting an absentee/mail-in ballot.
  • Michigan: On Sept. 18, Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims issued a ruling extending the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 17 for ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 2. Stephens also authorized voters to allow anyone of their choosing to return their ballots between 5:01 p.m. on Oct. 30 and the close of polls on Nov. 3.
  • Mississippi: On Sept. 18, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that had extended absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”
  • New York: On Sept. 18, the League of Women Voters reached a settlement agreement with New York election officials over ballot curing provisions for the general election.
  • Ohio: On Sept. 11, Judge Stephen L. McIntosh of Ohio’s Franklin County Court of Common Pleas barred Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) from rejecting absentee/mail-in ballot applications submitted via fax or email.
  • Rhode Island: On Sept. 11, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) announced that her office would send absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all active registered voters in the general election.
  • South Carolina:
    • On Sept. 18, Judge J. Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots in the general election.
    • On Sept. 16, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed H5305 into law, extending absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to all qualified electors in the general election. The legislation also established Oct. 5 as the start date for in-person absentee voting (i.e., early voting).
  • Wisconsin: On Sept. 21, Judge William M. Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued an order extending the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline in Wisconsin to Nov. 9 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day. Conley immediately stayed his ruling, giving defendants seven days to file an emergency appeal.

To date, 38 states have modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into the following five broad categories:

  • Automatic mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballots to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in yellow in the map below.
  • Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in dark blue in the map below.
  • Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) have expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility in the general election. These states are shaded in light blue in the map below.
  • Deadline extensions: Five states (Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania) have extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or return deadlines in the general election. These states are shaded in dark gray in the map below.
  • Other process changes: Five states (Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) have made other modifications to its absentee/mail-in ballot procedures for the general election. These states are shaded in gray in the map below.
General election absentee voting changes September 23.png

Redistricting developments since our last issue

Since our Sept. 9 edition, we’ve tracked the following redistricting-related developments.

  • On Sept. 10, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down a presidential memorandum from President Donald Trump (R) directing census officials to “exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.”
  • In its per curiam (unsigned) opinion, the panel ruled that the president’s memorandum violated federal census and apportionment laws as follows:
    • “First, pursuant to the virtually automatic scheme established by these interlocking statutes, the Secretary [of Commerce] is mandated to report a single set of numbers — ‘[t]he tabulation of total population by States’ under the decennial census — to the President, and the President, in turn, is required to use the same set of numbers in connection with apportionment. By directing the Secretary to provide two sets of numbers, one derived from the decennial census and one not, and announcing that it is the policy of the United States to use the latter in connection with apportionment, the Presidential Memorandum deviates from, and thus violates, the statutory scheme.”
    • “Second, the Presidential Memorandum violates the statute governing apportionment because, so long as they reside in the United States, illegal aliens qualify as ‘persons in’ a ‘State’ as Congress used those words.”
  • The panel included Judges Richard Wesley, Peter Hall, and Jesse Furman. Wesley and Hall are George W. Bush (R) appointees. Furman is a Barack Obama (D) appointee.
  • On Sept. 16, the Department of Justice filed its notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to take up the matter.

Litigation tracking

To date, we have tracked 236 lawsuits and/or court orders involving election policy issues and the COVID-19 outbreak. In each issue of The Ballot Bulletin, we shine a spotlight on what we consider one of the more interesting recent developments in this area. Click here to view the complete list of lawsuits and court orders.

This week, we turn our attention to Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose.

  • Case name: Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose
  • Case number: 20CV-5634
  • State of origin: Ohio
  • Court: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Ohio Court of Appeals for the Tenth Appellate District
  • Summary: On Sept. 15, Judge Richard Frye of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s (R) order directing counties to provide no more than one absentee/mail-in ballot drop box per county “lacked a legitimate basis in evidence” and was “unreasonable and unlawful.” Frye initially stopped short of suspending the order, noting that LaRose had previously said he supported “additional drop boxes if they are legal.”
    • In response to the ruling, Maggie Sheehan , a representative for LaRose, said, “Today’s ruling didn’t change anything, and the secretary’s directive remains in place.”
    • On Sept. 16, Frye enjoined the order. However, anticipating LaRose would appeal, Frye immediately stayed his injunction. On Sept. 21, LaRose filed his appeal with the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Tenth Appellate District.

Legislation tracking

To date, we have tracked 314 bills that make some mention of both election policy and COVID-19. States with higher numbers of relevant bills are shaded in darker blue on the map below. States with lower numbers of relevant bills are shaded in lighter blue. In states shaded in white, we have tracked no relevant bills.

Legislation related to elections and COVID-19, 2020

COVID-19 election bills September 23.png


First presidential debate topics include SCOTUS, coronavirus

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
September 23, 2020: Debate moderator Chris Wallace announced the six topics for the first presidential debate. Maine will use ranked-choice voting in the presidential election.


Presidential Facebook ads, 2019-2020 (September 14-20, 2020)

Notable Quote of the Day

“While everyone is talking about the significance of extending the mail-ballot deadline, it is the naked ballot ruling that is going to cause electoral chaos.”

– Lisa Deeley, Philadelphia City Commissioners chairwoman

Election Updates

  • Fox News anchor Chris Wallace announced the six topics for the first presidential debate: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election. Wallace is moderating the debate on September 29.
  • The Maine Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a veto referendum on ranked-choice voting (RCV) did not reach the signature threshold required to appear on the ballot. RCV will be used for the first time in a presidential election.
  • The Joe Biden campaign announced it was running a radio advertising campaign in nine battleground states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—focused on the coronavirus pandemic and rural communities.
  • Biden is making his first visit to North Carolina since the Democratic primary season on Wednesday. He is attending a Black economic summit in Charlotte.
  • Donald Trump said he would announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.
  • Trump will speak at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday morning. The event is taking place virtually.

Flashback: September 23, 2016

NBC News reported on Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s debate prep.blank

Click here to learn more.



DNC outraises RNC for the first time since March

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) outraised the Republican National Committee (RNC) for the first time since March last month, according to September 2020 campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Sunday.

Last month, the RNC raised $67.6 million and spent $62.6 million, while the DNC raised $78.4 million and spent $26.7 million. So far in the 2020 cycle, the RNC has raised 61.9% more than the DNC ($532.7 million to $281.0 million). The RNC’s 61.9% fundraising advantage is down from 78.6% in August and 75.0% in July.

At this point in the 2016 campaign cycle (the most recent presidential cycle), the RNC had a smaller 24.2% fundraising advantage over the DNC ($231.3 million to $181.4 million).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised $26.9 million and spent $26.0 million last month, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) raised $19.0 million and spent $21.8 million. So far in the 2020 cycle, the NRSC has raised 1.5% more than the DSCC ($167.7 million to $165.2 million). The NRSC’s 1.5% fundraising advantage is down from 7.3% in August and 6.5% in July.

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $22.7 million and spent $15.8 million, while the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $17.3 million and spent $15.6 million. So far in the cycle, the DCCC has raised 26.3% more than the NRCC ($248.8 million to $191.0 million). The DCCC’s 26.3% advantage is up from 26.2% in August and 25.9% in July.

At this point in the 2018 campaign cycle, Democrats led in both Senate and House fundraising. The DSCC had raised 7.8% more than the NRSC ($98.2 million to $90.9 million), while the DCCC had raised 31.3% more than the NRCC ($206.4 million to $150.5 million).

So far in the 2020 campaign cycle, the RNC, NRSC, and NRCC have raised 24.8% more than the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC ($891.4 million versus $695.0 million). The Republican fundraising advantage is down from 32.6% in August and 30.1% in July.

Additional reading:



Biden gains cash advantage over Trump for first time in 2020 presidential election cycle

Joe Biden outraised Donald Trump by $150 million according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on September 20.

The Biden campaign raised $212 million in August, a percentage difference of 109% from the Trump campaign’s $62 million. Biden’s campaign spent $130 million to Trump’s $61 million. As of August 31, the Biden campaign had $60 million more in cash on hand than the Trump campaign ($181 million to $121 million), marking the first time his campaign has held a cash advantage over Trump. Biden also leads Trump in overall fundraising for the first time, cumulatively raising $541 million to Trump’s $476 million.

Biden’s campaign more than quadrupled its receipts from July in August ($50 million to $212 million), while Trump’s receipts declined by $10 million ($72 million to $62 million).

Biden’s $541 million in overall fundraising is the second-highest figure for any presidential candidate at this point in the past four cycles. The only candidate to have outraised him was Barack Obama (D), who had raised $598 million in inflation-adjusted funds at this point in 2008. Biden’s cash-on-hand total of $181 million is the highest of any candidate’s at this point in the election cycle, topping Trump’s $121 million this year and Obama’s $102 million in inflation-adjusted cash on hand in September 2012.

Biden and Trump’s combined $1 billion in fundraising is the highest across the four most recent election cycles. At this point in the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain (R) had raised a combined inflation-adjusted $908 million.

Additional reading:



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 22, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at outdoor venue reopenings in North Carolina, the easing of international travel restrictions in North Dakota, school reopenings, and more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced the formation of a new advisory group to prepare the state for the distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. The co-chairs of the group are Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of public health, and Dr. Reggie Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England.
  • New Hampshire (divided government): Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed an executive order extending the state of Emergency for an additional 21 days.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that beginning Oct. 2, large outdoor venues with a capacity of more than 10,000 may reopen at 7% capacity. The change only applies to venues with seats and not large open areas.
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): North Dakota Interim State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani announced that North Dakotans traveling internationally were no longer required to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced agritourism activities (like hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches) can reopen in Modified Phase 1 counties if they comply with Phase 2 requirements for the industry.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended the state’s mask requirement and public health emergency through Nov. 21.

Daily feature: Schools

All 50 states closed schools to in-person instruction at some point during the 2019-2020 academic year. Beginning in May 2020, schools in certain states began to reopen. In which states are schools allowed to open? In which states are they ordered to remain closed?

The current status of school reopenings is as follows:

  • Washington, D.C., has a district-ordered school closure
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 85,850 students (0.17% of students nationwide)
  • Five states (Calif., Hawaii, N.M., Ore., W.V.) have a state-ordered regional school closure
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 7,679,753 students (15.18% of students nationwide)
  • Two states (Del., N.C.) are open for hybrid or remote instruction only
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 1,686,326 students (3.33% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla.*, Iowa, Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
    • *Note: Three counties in South Florida are not at the same phase of reopening as the rest of the state and are not affected by the emergency order to open schools.
  • Thirty-nine states have reopenings that vary by school or district
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 31,955,012 students (63.17% of students nationwide)

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.

  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho proposed a staggered school reopening plan that would return in-person learning beginning Sept. 30. On Sept. 30, students in pre-k through 1st grade and those with special needs would begin in-person instruction. Grades 2-6 and 9-10 would return on Oct. 5, followed by grades 7-8 and 11-12 on Oct. 7.
  • On Sept. 16, a University of Washington (UW) student filed a class-action lawsuit seeking tuition reimbursement for campus closures. In the complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, UW graduate student Alexander Barry argues that “[d]espite sending students home, transitioning to online instruction, and closing its campuses, the University of Washington continued to charge for tuition … as if nothing changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students.” The suit alleges the university’s “failure to provide in-person instruction and shutdown of campus facilities amounts to a material breach of the contract.” The complaint alleges that contract law, constitutional guarantees, and “good conscience require that the University of Washington return a portion of the monies paid in tuition and fees.” In a statement, UW representative Victor Balta said university officials “understand and share the frustration and disappointment that students and their families are experiencing as we navigate the unprecedented limitations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” but declined to comment directly on the pending litigation. The judge assigned to the case has yet to be announced.


Did COVID-19 affect the number of candidates who filed for election in 2020?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, states have changed election dates, voting procedures, and candidate filing deadlines. We took a look at the potential effect these changes had on candidate filing ratios (the number of candidates who filed compared to the number of seats up for election).

We chose the date of comparison as March 13, 2020—the date the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to take a comprehensive approach to fight COVID-19. The data shows that the number of candidates who filed in 2020 and in 2018 is similar.

In 2020, 0.13 more candidates filed for election on or before March 13 than those who filed on or before the same date in 2018.

In 2020, 0.21 more candidates filed for election after March 13 than filed for election after March 13 in 2018.

In 2018, 2,294 candidates filed to run for the U.S. House. For this year’s elections, the number is 2,378. In both years, all 435 U.S. House seats were up for election.

The five states with the largest changes in candidate filing ratios—calculated by dividing the number of candidates who filed for election by the number of seats up for election—(positive or negative) from 2018 to 2020 are:

New Hampshire: -7.00
Utah: +6.25
Hawaii: +4.00
Idaho: -4.00
South Carolina: -3.15

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, 25 states have changed election dates at the state or local level and 40 states have made changes to voting procedures. Nineteen states have made changes to candidate filing deadlines.

Additional reading:



Biden spends $65 million on ads across 12 states

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
September 22, 2020: The Biden campaign is spending $65 million on ads this week in 12 states. Jo Jorgensen completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey.


Presidential poll highlights, 2019-2020 (Emerson College • North Carolina • September 16-18, 2020)

Presidential poll highlights, 2019-2020 (Trafalgar Group • Pennsylvania • September 15-17, 2020)

Presidential poll highlights, 2019-2020 (CBS News • Texas • September 15-18, 2020)

Notable Quote of the Day

“But the way Biden behaved in the primary debates isn’t necessarily a great guide to how he will show up against Trump—a fact that the president and his aides seem to be preparing for as they build an ouroboros of contradictory expectations, including that Biden is effectively brain-dead, on performance-enhancing drugs, a stumbling idiot who can’t get his words out, and a debater with skills on par with Cicero’s.

The key difference that Biden’s aides are counting on: He doesn’t like taking shots at his fellow Democrats, but he enjoys whaling on Republicans. He’s good at it—or at least he was the last time he had the chance, in the 2012 vice-presidential debate against Paul Ryan. Biden hates being pulled to the liberal edge of the party, like he was in the primaries, but loves to portray himself as the middle-of-the-road guy standing up for common sense.”

– Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic

Election Updates

  • The Joe Biden campaign is spending $65 million on ads this week in 12 states. A portion of the ad buy—across radio, digital, and broadcast channels—focuses on Black voters in Georgia.
  • Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport on Tuesday, marking his fourth appearance in the state this month.
  • Trump will give a prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.
  • On Monday, Trump said he had spoken with several potential Supreme Court nominees and planned to meet a few candidates in person. He said he had narrowed his list to five women.
  • Howie Hawkins is holding a weekly livestream on Tuesday night with Madelyn Hoffman, a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey.
  • Jo Jorgensen completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Click here to read her responses.

Flashback: September 22, 2016

Donald Trump said Chicago should institute a stop-and-frisk policy to address violence in the city.blank

Click here to learn more.



Arkansas Supreme Court removes third citizen initiative from November ballot, leaving three legislative referrals for voters to decide

On September 17, the Arkansas Supreme Court removed Issue 6 from the November ballot. The referendum would have allowed voters to either repeal or uphold Act 579, which was designed to amend the definition of practice of optometry to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures that were previously only performed by ophthalmologists. A yes vote on the referendum would have been a vote to uphold Act 579 while a no vote would have been a vote to repeal it.

During this cycle, the Arkansas Supreme Court removed all three citizen-initiated measures from the ballot—Issue 4, Issue 5, and Issue 6—that had been certified for the ballot. The rulings were all based on certifications filed by measure sponsors that said background checks were acquired for all signature gatherers. State law requires the certifications to state that background checks were passed by all signature gatherers.

Arkansans for Healthy Eyes led the campaign in support of a yes vote. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes supported Act 579 to allow optometrists to perform some eye surgeries. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA) led the campaign in support of a no vote. SSA sponsored the referendum signature petition. The group opposed allowing optometrists to perform some eye surgeries and sought to repeal Act 579. Safe Surgery Arkansas paid $661,000 to National Ballot Access, a petition circulating company, to collect signatures for the measure.

Issue 6 was removed from the ballot for the same reason that Issues 4 and 5 were removed in late August. Issue 4, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would have created the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. Arkansas Voters First paid $1.1 million to National Ballot Access, Advanced Micro Targeting, and Fieldworks LLC to collect signatures for the measure.

Issue 5, sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, would have (a) changed primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) created a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices. Open Primaries Arkansas did not report signature gathering costs.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the secretary of state that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. The Arkansas Supreme Court found that proponents of the three measures failed to certify that paid signature gatherers passed background checks. The certifications submitted by petitioners stated that background checks were acquired, but did not say they were passed.

Sponsors of the referendum, Safe Surgery Arkansas, said they would pursue a new ballot measure in 2022.

Three measures remain on the November ballot in Arkansas. All three measures are constitutional amendments that were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. Issue 1 would continue a 0.5% sales tax for transportation projects; Issue 2 would change state legislative term limits; and Issue 3 would change initiative process and legislative referral requirements.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.

Additional reading:



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: September 21, 2020

Welcome to the 100th edition of Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at the extension of New Mexico’s stay-at-home order, the expansion of indoor dining in Maryland, mask mandates, and more. Want to know what happened Friday? Click here.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 20, Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued an executive order extending last call in bars and restaurants from 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. for counties under Level 1 reopening orders. Last call in counties under Level 2 reopening orders will remain at 11:00 p.m.
  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 21, Office of Early Childhood Development Commissioner Beth Bye announced that children age three and older must wear face masks at daycares and preschools.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 18, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) extended the bar closures in Johnson and Story counties through Sept. 27. Those counties are home to the state’s two largest universities—the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Sept. 18, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order expanding indoor dining to 75% capacity. Local governments have the authority to either follow the governor’s guidelines or maintain stricter guidelines.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Umatilla and Morrow counties were removed from the County Watch List. Brown also said Morrow County was approved for Phase 2 of reopening, effective Sept. 18.

Daily feature: Face coverings

We last looked at face coverings in the Sept. 14th edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have adopted a statewide public mask mandate or let a face covering requirement expire.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.

  • On Sept. 10, a group of parents filed suit in the Putnam County Court of Common Pleas, challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s mask mandate for schools. The mandate requires public and private students in kindergarten through 12th grade to wear facial coverings while on campus, with some exceptions. The parents allege the order infringes on their religious beliefs, and those of their children, as well as their constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit. The plaintiffs also allege mask wearing has become politicized, making the mandate an unconstitutional form of compelled speech. Lastly, the parents allege the mandate “destroys basic expressive communication, deletes peoples’ sense of self,” and violates their privacy rights “in violation of traditional common law as well as Ohio tort law.” Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health, has not commented. The case is assigned to Judge Keith Schierloh.


Bitnami