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 22, 2020.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
President Donald Trump (R) said that he would sign an executive order on immigration halting most green cards for 60 days. Work visas for temporary employees in agricultural and other industries will not be affected.
Trump said, “By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”
We turn our attention to some of the responses to this planned executive order.
- Federation for American Immigration Reform government relations director RJ Hauman said, “Pausing immigration at the height of a health crisis and record unemployment is widely supported by the American people. President Trump must deliver for them, not business interests obsessed with low wages and cheap foreign labor.”
- Law professors Jennifer M. Chacón and Erwin Chemerinsky said, “It cannot be justified on public health grounds; indeed, the president’s tweet did not even mention public health as a basis for the ban. This makes sense, because no one has suggested that protecting public health necessitates an end to immigration. Even during the height of the 1918 flu pandemic, the United States safely allowed more than 110,000 immigrants to enter the country. Public health requires no more than a temporary quarantine on arriving immigrants who might be infected — something that the Trump administration has already done for certain arriving immigrants.”
- Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA, said, “The president’s comments reflect a sensitivity to a primary purpose of all immigration laws of every country, and that is to protect a nation’s vulnerable workers. With tens of millions of Americans who want to work full time not able to, most immigration makes no sense today, and to allow it to continue at its current level at this time would show a callous disregard for those enduring deep economic suffering.”
- Doug Rand, who worked on immigration issues in the Obama administration, said, “No one is losing their job because of competition from immigrants; they’re losing their job because no one can leave their house.”
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 November 4, 1918, the Los Angeles Evening Herald, published an article titled “Stephens, Bell, Both Confident; Influenza May Hold Down Vote.” The article discussed the possible effect the influenza pandemic would have on voter turnout in Southern California.
“Ready for battle at the polls tomorrow, scores of candidates for office at the general state and county election today were making their final appeals to voters. What effect the influenza will have on the result, was a big subject for discussion. It is admitted in many quarters that the vote will be light.
Theodore A. Ball, independent for governor, and William D. Stephens, Republican, incumbent, each expressed confidence.”
“Stephens headquarters claimed their man would be elected by 100,000 majority.
Bell headquarters said a big vote in the north and a comparatively light vote in the south would insure Bell’s victory. What wagers were made apparently favored Stephens.”
- Yesterday, a panel from the National Institutes of Health released guidance concluding that there was not enough data on several different drugs (including hydroxychloroquine) to allow for their use outside of clinical trials when paired with antibiotics.
Plans to reopen
Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Montana – Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced that the state’s stay-at-home order would be lifted effective April 26. He said that places of worship could open on that date as long as physical distancing was practiced. His order allows retail stores to open with physical distancing practices on April 27, and bars and restaurants to re-open with limited capacity beginning May 4. Bullock also said he would rescind the statewide school closure order on May 7, but individual districts would be allowed to decide whether to reopen for in-person instruction.
- North Dakota – Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced six working groups created as part of his ND Smart Restart plan. The six groups are made up of representatives from industries that were closed in the state to discuss steps on how to restart the economy.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 40 lawsuits in 24 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in nine of those lawsuits.
- Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm, et al.: On April 21, the Wisconsin State Legislature filed suit in the state supreme court against Wisconsin Department of Health Services executives Andrea Palm and Julie Willems Van Dijk, alleging that they exceeded their authority in issuing Emergency Order 28, which extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 26. The legislature asked the court to enjoin the state from enforcing the stay-at-home order.
- We are also tracking Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association v. Whitmer, a challenge to Michigan’s stay-at-home order and its classification of landscaping businesses as nonessential. That case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
State stay-at-home orders
- So far, 43 of the 50 states issued statewide shutdown orders. Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.
- Montana – Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced that he would not extend the state’s stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on April 24. He said that a phased reopening of businesses would begin on April 26.
- Alaska – Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) announced that some businesses could begin reopening as early as Monday, April 27. Social distancing requirements, however, will remain in effect until further notice.
- Thirty-nine states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Those states account for 82.8% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
- Massachusetts – Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
- Nevada – Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
- South Carolina – Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
- West Virginia – Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
- Nineteen governors or state agencies have issued an executive order restricting out-of-state travelers.
- Alaska – Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended international and out-of-state travel restrictions through May 19.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
Prison inmate responses
- Sixteen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
- Fifteen 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.
- Maine – Gov. Janet Mills announced during a press briefing last week that the Maine Department of Corrections had released 60 inmates to supervised community confinement. Inmates were determined eligible based on the risk posed to the public and the length of time left on their sentence.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-three states have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 17 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- At least seven lawsuits seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
- Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
- Arkansas – Arkansas Voters First, proponents of redistricting commission initiative, filed a lawsuit on April 22 seeking relief from certain signature petition requirements, such as in-person signature, witness, and notary requirements. The group suspended signature gathering on March 19 due to the pandemic. The initiative was designed to take effect for 2021 redistricting if passed by voters in 2020.
State legislative responses
- To date, 584 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Eighty-six significant bills have been enacted into law, 15 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
- Twenty-five state legislatures had suspended their sessions. Three of those had since reconvened.
- Seventeen legislatures had either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Five state legislatures were in regular session.
- Three state legislatures (Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) were in special session.