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 23, 2020.
Plans to reopen
Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- North Carolina – In a press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) provided details on a three-part plan to reopen the state’s economy. Cooper extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 8, but said the first phase of the plan could begin as early as May 9, so long as the state meets certain benchmarks related to decreasing coronavirus infections. Each phase of the plan would gradually relax restrictions on the types of businesses that could reopen and the number of people allowed to gather in one location. North Carolina has a divided government.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Yesterday, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) released the statewide plan to reopen Montana in three phases following the expiration of stay-at-home orders for individuals on April 26 and businesses on April 27. Montana has a divided government.
The plan sets guidelines and start dates for nine types of employers and activities and allows schools the option to reopen for in-person instruction beginning May 7. Today, we turn our attention to Bullock’s announcement and the reactions to it.
- Bullock said in a press release, “Our new normal is going to look different. This virus isn’t gone from Montana. So as we turn to support our main street businesses and get more families back to work during this time – as we should – we must also be sure to continue looking out for those around us and protecting everyone around us.”
- Montana State Senate President Scott Sales (R) said the plan was a step in the right direction. He added, “It’d be nice if the governor had included the legislature in this decision making, but he didn’t and that’s his prerogative.”
- Modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that Montana should remain closed until May 1, the earliest date for any state.
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 20, 1918, the Chicago Tribune, published an article titled “Illinois starts unusual state fight tomorrow.” The article discussed the impact that the influenza epidemic had on campaigning for the general election.
“Illinois starts tomorrow morning upon what politicians understand to be the most extraordinary state campaign in Illinois records. Twelve days of active work remain for the Republican and Democratic state committees to make their fight for the United States senatorship, the state offices, and for congress and the Illinois legislature. The Cook county political organizations face a remarkable task in their efforts to elect their respective county tickets.
Held off until last midnight by the Liberty loan drive and prohibited by the influenza epidemic from making any speaking campaign whatever, the Chicago and Illinois committees are held strictly to publicity and personal organizations work to do the job that usually has been performed by flying squadrons of orators and a prolonged canvases made through the usual political channels.”
- According to Politico, the House was expected to pass the $484 billion coronavirus aid package later this evening. The Senate passed this legislation earlier in the week. As of publication time, the legislation had not been voted on.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 48 lawsuits in 26 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in 10 of those lawsuits.
- Michigan United for Liberty v. Whitmer – Michigan United for Liberty filed suit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), arguing that the Emergency Management Act (1976) and Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 are unconstitutional. The laws are the legal basis for the executive orders issued by the governor. The suit was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims.
- Michigan United Conservation Clubs v. Whitmer et al – Michigan United Conservation Clubs filed suit against Gov. Whitmer, challenging her blanket ban on motorboat use. The ban falls under Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. We are following several other suits filed against Whitmer in the same court:
- Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association v. Whitmer
- Belanger et al v. Whitmer et al
- Vander Zwaag et al v. Whitmer et al
- Beemer et al v. Whitmer et al
- Mary Jane Wallner, et al v. Christopher Sununu – Judge Dave Anderson dismissed the lawsuit against New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R). The suit, filed in the Hillsborough County Superior Court (North) by four Democratic state legislators, sought to prevent the governor’s new Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery from distributing $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds without oversight from the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee.
- Shyanne Colvin et al. v. Jay Inslee et al. – The Washington Supreme Court announced it would hear this case filed against Gov. Jay Inslee (D) asking for the release of inmates over the age of 50, with underlying health issues, including pregnancy or mental illness, or those who have less than 18 months remaining on their sentences. Columbia Legal Services, which filed the suit, said, “If we’re to respond effectively to this global pandemic we must ensure that everyone is protected from exposure to COVID-19, including the most vulnerable members of our communities, and that includes people who are incarcerated.”
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.
- Illinois – Gov. J.B. (D) Pritzker announced he was extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 31. The order was originally set to expire on April 30. Illinois is a Democratic state government trifecta.
- North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced he was extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 8. The order was originally set to expire on April 29. North Carolina has a divided state government.
- 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 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Wisconsin – The Republican Party of Wisconsin has postponed its state convention, originally scheduled to take place in May, to July 10-11.
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.
- Forty 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, Minnesota, 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 84.6% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- Of the 10 states that have not announced that schools will for the remainder of the year, five have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- Minnesota – Tim Walz (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 May 1.
- 19 governors or state agencies have issued an executive order restricting out-of-state visitors.
- Of these 19 states, 11 have Republican governors. The remaining eight have Democratic governors.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Connecticut – Connecticut’s Judicial Branch announced that people entering a courthouse or facility are required to wear a mask or a cloth face covering, per Gov. Ned Lamont’s April 22 executive order.
- Idaho – The Idaho Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through May 1. Prior to the order, restrictions were set to expire April 22.
- Louisiana – The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended jury trials through June 30. Prior to the order, the suspension of jury trials was set to expire May 4.
- Maine – The Maine Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through May 15 and suspension of jury trials through May 29. Prior to the order, restrictions on in-person proceedings were set to expire May 1.
- Montana – The Montana Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through May 4. Prior to the order, restrictions were set to expire April 30.
- Virginia – The Virginia Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through May 17. Prior to the order, restrictions were set to expire April 26.
- West Virginia – The West Virginia Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through May 15. Prior to the order, restrictions were set to expire May 1.
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.
- Massachusetts – According to a new report ordered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 637 inmates have been released from state prisons and county jails since April 5, following the courts April 3 order.
- Ohio – U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin for the Northern District of Ohio ordered the transfer or release of certain vulnerable inmate populations from Elkton prison, a federal prison in Ohio, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Inmates who are older with underlying health conditions are considered for transfer out of the prison through, but not limited to, compassionate release, parole or community supervision, transfer furlough, or non-transfer furlough within two weeks. Those who are deemed ineligible, but are still vulnerable, will be transferred to another Bureau of Prisons facility where measures, such as testing and social distancing, can be taken.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local levels.
- Texas -The City of Dallas announced a temporary eviction ordinance which requires landlords to provide a “COVID notice of eviction.” Tenants who have been economically impacted by coronavirus would have 21 days to respond to the notice and have 60 days to pay back rent before an eviction could proceed. In addition, the Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved a nearly $13.7 million federally funded rental and mortgage assistance program for city residents. The short-term program would provide up to three months of payments for residents at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income. Low-to-moderate income renters and landlords can apply for assistance beginning May 1.
State legislative responses
- To date, 606 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Eighty-eight significant bills have been enacted into law, approximately 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-four state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Three of those have since reconvened.
- Eighteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- Three state legislatures (Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) are in special session.
- Connecticut – On April 21, legislative leaders announced that the legislature would not reconvene in advance of its constitutional adjournment on May 6, effectively adjourning the regular session early. The legislature had suspended its session effective March 12, 2020. The suspension was originally scheduled to lift at the end of March. It was then extended to April 13, 2020. It was extended again to April 23, 2020.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
State politicians who tested positive for coronavirus
- State Senator Lupe Contreras (D-AZ)