Coronavirus daily update: April 13, 2020

As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for April 13, 2020.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
To date, 20 states have made temporary modifications to their absentee/mail voting procedures in response to the pandemic. This includes, most recently, Maryland and New Hampshire. Today, we turn our attention to the emerging debate over expanding or universalizing absentee/mail voting.
  1. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal published April 10, John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said, “‘Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” That quote isn’t from President Trump, who criticized mail-in voting this week after Wisconsin Democrats tried and failed to change an election at the last minute into an exclusively mail-in affair. It’s the conclusion of the bipartisan 2005 report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III. … Mail-in voting is a throwback to the dark old days of vote-buying and fraud. Because of this, many countries don’t allow absentee ballots for citizens living in their country, including Norway and Mexico. Americans deserve a more trustworthy system.”
  2. In an op-ed for The Washington Post published April 9, Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine, said, “Given that expanded mail-in voting is going to be an inevitable piece of the November election because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that Americans understand what risks come from voting by mail and what can be done about those risks before November, so that voters can have confidence that the election can be fairly conducted, in part, through mail-in balloting. To begin with, election fraud has been rare in this country for decades. Impersonation fraud, where one person shows up at the polling place claiming to be a voter who died or moved, is practically nonexistent, yet it has formed the excuse for some Republican-led states to pass strict voter-identification laws that many Democrats believe are motivated by a desire to deter their likely voters.”
  3. For more information about the debate over expanding absentee/mail voting, see this article.
The 1918 influenza pandemic
The 1918 midterm elections occurred during the 1918 flu pandemic, one of the most severe in history. Each day, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.
On October 10, 1918, the Indianapolis Star published an article titled, “Influenza Mars Suffrage Plans.” The article discussed how the pandemic affected the women’s suffrage movement.
“‘Everything conspires against woman suffrage,’ one local suffragist said Wednesday. ‘Now it is the influenza which is trying to prevent a spread of suffrage doctrine, but obedient to the demands of the health authorities the suffragists will refrain from public gatherings.’
Miss Florence Huberwald was scheduled to open the suffrage speaking campaign in New Orleans with a mass meeting in Lafayette Square Saturday night.  Dr. Oscar Dewling, president of the State Board of Health has said the people may go into parks, because plenty of fresh air can be found there, but on stricter analysis, Lafayette Square might not be described as a ‘fresh air park.’  The suffragists, however, have decided the question for themselves and Miss Huberwald announced Wednesday that the meeting for Saturday night had been cancelled.”
Federal responses
  1. The Supreme Court of the United States announced it would hear 13 cases by teleconference in May. The court announced it would release live audio of the proceedings to the public for the first time in history.
  2. President Donald Trump (R) announced the members of his Council to Re-Open America. Those members are Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Ivanka Trump, senior adviser Jared Kushner, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Director of the United States National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Election changes
Overview to date:
  1. Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
  2. Ten states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
  3. Twenty states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
  4. Political parties in 15 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
Details:
  1. Maine – Maine postponed its statewide primary, originally scheduled for June 9, to July 14. The petition deadline for unaffiliated candidates was extended to July 1.
  2. Maryland – Maryland’s June 2 primary election will be conducted predominantly by mail. Every eligible voter in the state will receive a ballot by mail. At least one in-person voting center per county will be open.
  3. New Hampshire – Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald advised election officials that “any voter may request an absentee ballot for the September 2020 Primary and November 2020 General Elections based on concerns regarding COVID-19.”
Ballot measure changes
Overview to date:
  1. Ballotpedia tracked 18 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  2. Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
  3. At least four lawsuits were filed seeking court orders suspending or changing requirements and deadlines.
State legislative responses
Overview to date:
  1. To date, 438 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
  2. Seventy-five significant bills have been enacted into law, about 17 percent of the total number that have been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
State legislative session changes
Overview to date:
  1. Twenty-five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Five of those have since reconvened.
  2. Nineteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  3. Four state legislatures are in regular session.
  4. One state legislature (Oklahoma) is in special session.
  5. One state (Minnesota) has partially suspended legislative activity.
Details:
  1. Arizona – Arizona’s session suspension has been extended to an indefinite date. Previously, the suspension had been scheduled to lift April 13.
  2. Colorado – Colorado’s session suspension has been extended to last through May 18. It had originally been scheduled to last through March 30. It was then extended to April 2 before being extended again to May 18.
  3. Connecticut – Connecticut’s session suspension has been extended to last through April 23. The suspension had originally been scheduled to lift at the end of March. It was then extended to April 13 before being extended again to April 23.
  4. Rhode Island – Rhode Island’s session suspension has been extended through April 17. The suspension had originally been scheduled to last through April 3. It was then extended to April 10 before being extended again to April 17.
State court changes
Overview to date:
  1. Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
  2. Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
Details:
  1. Iowa – The Iowa Judicial Branch extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through June 1.  The court also suspended criminal trials through July 13, and civil trials through August 3.
  2. Michigan – The Michigan Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through April 30.
  3. Minnesota – The Minnesota Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through May 4.
Prison inmate responses
Overview to date:
  1. Thirteen states ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
  2. Sixteen states ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
  3. Sixteen states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
  4. Two states prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
  5. Three states temporarily released certain populations of inmates.
Details:
  1. Texas –  On April 10, Texas 261st District Court Judge Lora Livingston issued a ruling that temporarily blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s March 29 order prohibiting the release of certain inmate populations without paying bail. The ruling followed a lawsuit filed against Gov. Abbott and Attorney General of the State of Texas Ken Paxton, by Harris County’s misdemeanor judges, criminal defense organizations and the NAACP of Texas.  Livingston’s ruling limited the governor and attorney general from enforcing the March 29 order against judges and set an April 24 hearing for the plaintiff’s application for a temporary injunction.
  2. New Jersey– Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order on April 10 that established a process for certain inmates to be released to temporary home confinement or to be granted parole due to coronavirus. Those qualified for release include low-risk incarcerated individuals vulnerable to the disease based on age and health status, and low-risk inmates who have been denied parole within the last year, or whose sentences are set to expire in the next three months.
State stay-at-home orders
Overview to date:
  1. Forty-three states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.
Details:
  1. Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee extended the state’s “safer at home” order to April 30
  2. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced that they would coordinate in order to reopen their states’ economies using a shared approach.
  3. The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island announced a joint task force to discuss reopening their states’ economies. Each state will nominate a public health official, economic development official, and chief of staff to serve as part of the working group.
School closures
Overview to date:
  1. Twenty-one states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Those states account for 42.1% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
  2. All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
Travel restrictions
Overview to date:
  1. Eighteen states have issued executive orders on interstate travel restrictions.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
Overview:
  1. Thirty-three states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures
Details:
  1. Vermont– In a remote vote on April 10, the Vermont State Senate passed bill S.333, which approved a measure to pause evictions and foreclosures due to the coronavirus pandemic, with exceptions for tenants that pose a risk to the public. The moratorium would end 30 days after the governor terminates the state of emergency. The bill was sent to the Vermont House of Representatives.
  2. Iowa – The Iowa Judicial Branch stated in their order which extended restrictions on in-person proceedings in the state through June 1, that eviction cases set to begin before June 15 would be suspended, with an exception for tenants who pose a risk to the public or in cases where the district court makes the decision to proceed via phone.
  3. Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on April 3, part of which prohibited state, county, and local law enforcement from displacing residents from their home through the end of the order, which is scheduled to end April 30.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
Notable influencers who tested positive for coronavirus
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos



About the author

Stephanie MacGillivary

Stephanie MacGillivary is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at stephanie.macgillivary@ballotpedia.org@ballotpedia.org.

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