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 14, 2020.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Read more: Arguments in support of and opposition to government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
In the national debate over how to reopen the American economy, one key point involves the relative balance of power between the federal, state, and local governments. Today, we turn our attention to some of the recent arguments in this area.
- At yesterday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, President Donald Trump (R) said, “The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots. If we weren’t here for the states, you would have had a problem in this country like you’ve never seen before. We were here to back them up, and we more than backed them up. We did a job that nobody ever thought was possible. It’s a decision for the president of the United States. Now, with that being said, we’re going to work with the states because it’s very important.”
- In an interview this morning on CNN, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said, “Certain responsibilities are state responsibilities. Health, welfare, quarantine. Those are health responsibilities. So the president should not even think of going there. That would be divisive and political and it would be totally contrary to everything we’ve been trying to do by working in a cooperative fashion. … If [Trump] ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it. And we would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government, and that would go into the courts.”
- In an interview with USA Today, Kathleen Bergin, a law professor at Cornell University, said, “It’s so plain and obvious it’s not even debatable. Trump has no authority to ease social distancing, or to open schools or private businesses. These are matters for states to decide under their power to promote public health and welfare, a power guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.”
- In an interview with the Associated Press, David B. Rivkin, Jr., an attorney who served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said, “President Trump has authority under the Defense Production Act to compel the reopening and continued operations of various industrial and agricultural facilities and enterprises. Therefore, as a practical matter, he can reopen a large portion of the American economy.”
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 17, 1918, the Indianapolis Star published an article titled “Fall Campaign Still Hindered.” The article discussed how the pandemic affected political campaigning in the state.
“The outlook last night was that the epidemic of influenza will further demoralize the plans of the Republican and Democratic state committees for speaking campaigns. Secretary Hurty of the state board of health stated yesterday afternoon that it is probable the prohibition of all public gatherings may be extended for a week from next Monday, which is the date set by the Republicans and Democrats for opening the campaign. Secretary Hurty will determine Friday what course shall be taken.”
Click here to read the original article, courtesy of University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that the Senate would not reconvene until at least May 4. The Senate was originally scheduled to reconvene April 20.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a similar announcement about the House on Monday afternoon. The House was also originally scheduled to reconvene April 20.
Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Ten states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-one states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in 16 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Mississippi – The Mississippi Republican Party has postponed its state convention, originally scheduled for May 15-16, indefinitely.
- South Dakota – South Dakota will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in advance of the state’s June 2 primary election.
- Virginia – The Republican congressional committee of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District voted to postpone its convention, originally scheduled for April 25, indefinitely.
Ballot measure changes
Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Ballotpedia tracked 19 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least four lawsuits have been filed seeking court orders suspending or changing ballot measure requirements and deadlines.
- Michigan – Steven Liedel, legal counsel for Fair and Equal Michigan, said the campaign was transitioning to gathering electronic signatures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Nebraska – TRUE Nebraskans announced that it was suspending its signature-gathering efforts for the Nebraska Income Tax Credit for Paid Property Taxes Initiative.
State legislative responses
- To date, 480 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Seventy-six significant bills have been enacted into law, 16 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
Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Twenty-five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Five of those have since reconvened.
- Nineteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Four state legislatures are in regular session.
- One state legislature (Oklahoma) is in special session.
- One state (Minnesota) has partially suspended legislative activity.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Delaware – Delaware Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. extended court closures in the state through May 14. except for Delaware’s three Justice of the Peace courts. The three 24-hour courts will remain open to accept bail payments for all courts and Justice of the Peace Court emergency criminal and civil filings.
- New York – The New York Unified Court System expanded the use of virtual court proceedings beyond essential and emergency matters, which allows the court to hear pending matters. New nonessential fillings are prohibited.
- Louisiana – On April 6, the Louisiana Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials through May 4.
Prison inmate responses
Read more: State and local governments that released prison inmates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Fifteen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
- Sixteen states have ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
- Fourteen states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
- Two states have prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
- Three states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.
- Washington – Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state plans to release almost 1,000 inmates early to slow the spread of coronavirus. The inmates considered for early release are those vulnerable to the disease and nonviolent offenders already scheduled to be released.
- Colorado – The Colorado Department of Corrections announced that 52 prisoners were granted early release last week.
- North Carolina – North Carolina prison officials announced that the state started to release some inmates early due to the coronavirus pandemic. The inmates considered for early release include inmates who are pregnant, inmates 65 and older with underlying health conditions, female inmates who are 50 or older with health conditions and a 2020 release date, inmates who are 65 or older and have a 2020 release date, inmates who are on home leave with a 2020 release date, and inmates on work release with a 2020 release date.
State stay-at-home orders
Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- 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.
- Twenty-two states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Those states account for 43.1% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- Mississippi – Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced that schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools in the state were scheduled to remain closed through April 17.
Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Eighteen states issued executive orders on interstate travel restrictions.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Thirty-three states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Texas – On Monday afternoon, the Fifth Circuit issued a per curiam ruling allowing for individuals in Texas to obtain medication abortions. The court issued the ruling after Planned Parenthood appealed its previous decision (which did not allow for medication abortions) to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- The initial lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Texas, sought to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order that banned abortions in the state as part of a broader action on elective surgeries.