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 24, 2020.
Plans to reopen
Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Seven states do not have a stay-at-home order. All have Republican governors.
- Eight states have allowed some businesses whose activities had been restricted to resume. Six have Republican governors, two have Democratic governors.
- Seven states have formally announced a plan for reopening some businesses whose activities had been restricted. Four have Democratic governors, three have Republican governors.
- Twenty-eight states have announced no formal plans to rescind or otherwise revise limitations on business activity implemented as a result of stay-at-home orders. Eighteen have Democratic governors, 10 have Republican governors.
- Kentucky – Gov. Andy Beshear (D) released phase one of his plan to reopen the state economy. It established the following benchmarks for moving into phase two, which would include a phased reopening of businesses: 14 days of decreasing cases, increased testing capacity and contact tracking, personal protective equipment availability, ability to protect at-risk populations, ability to social distance and follow the CDC’s guidelines on large gatherings, preparedness for possible a future spike, and status of vaccine and treatment.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced a three-phase plan to reopen the state beginning with personal care businesses today. This includes hair salons, spas, and pet groomers. On May 1, restaurants, churches, gyms, and movie theaters would be permitted to reopen with some restrictions.
Today, we turn our attention to Stitt’s announcement and the reactions to it.
- Stitt said in a statement, “We have put together a group of industry professionals from across our state, and they have been working with my Governor’s Solution Task Force and our health advisors to develop a way to get back open safely. As we begin to responsibly implement this measured response, we will continue to prioritize the safety of Oklahomans and base all decisions on the data in our state.”
- Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said, “We are concerned Gov. Stitt’s plan to reopen the state is hasty at best. Even without widespread testing, Oklahoma has seen an ongoing growth in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the past week alone. According to the Trump administration, states should not begin this process until they’ve seen a two-week downward trajectory in COVID-19 cases, and we are far from this point.”
- State Rep. Sean Roberts (R), the chairman of the Public Health Committee, said, “The plan and phases outlined today by Governor Stitt give common sense guidelines for industries to maintain social distancing practices and continue increased sanitation efforts. Protecting the health of Oklahomans is vital, and the governor’s phased plan will balance these health and sanitation guidelines with protecting the health of our state’s economy before any further damage is done. I commend Governor Stitt for his wise leadership during this difficult time.”
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 31, 1918, the Oakland Tribune, published an article titled, “Election Board Members Quit Over Flu Scare.” The article discussed the fact that 25 percent of the board of supervisors resigned because of fear of influenza.
“If the attitude of the appointed members of the election board is criterion there will be a small attendance at the general election November 5. It was reported at today’s session of the board of supervisors that fully 25 percent of the members of the boards had phoned or written their resignations.
Additional persons are being appointed and the vacancies will be filled, under the provisions of the election law, by those members of different boards present at the booths on election morning swearing in sufficient numbers from the bystanders. The resignations are caused by the fear of the influenza epidemic.”
- President Donald Trump (R) signed a $484 billion coronavirus aid bill that included $130 billion for the Paycheck Protection Plan, $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for coronavirus testing, and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants. The U.S. Senate passed the measure by voice vote on April 21. The U.S. House voted 388-5-1 to pass the legislation on April 23.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 49 lawsuits in 26 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in 11 of those lawsuits.
- Ricardo Benitez and Jessica Martinez Vs. Gavin Newsom and Keely Martin Bosler – The nonprofit, Center for American Liberty, filed an emergency petition in the Supreme Court of the State of California against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Director of California Department of Finance Keely Martin Bosler. The plaintiffs asked the court to stay the governor’s recent decision to allocate $75 million to provide financial assistance to immigrants without legal status economically impacted by coronavirus, arguing that federal and state laws prohibit unemployment benefits to individuals without legal status and that the California constitution prohibits the gift of funds to a nongovernmental organization when the funds are “not for a legitimate state purpose determined by the legislature”, according to the petition.
- Shyanne Colvin et al. v. Jay Inslee et al. – The Washington Supreme Court rejected an emergency petition seeking to compel Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to order the mass release of inmates. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the plaintiffs in the case, filed by Columbia Legal Services, had not proved that the state failed in its duties to incarcerated individuals. The decision is not expected to affect current efforts the state is undertaking to release certain inmate populations in an effort to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Washington.
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.
- Michigan – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15. Michigan 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-two states and Washington, D.C., have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Illinois – A federal judge has issued an order making a number of modifications to filing procedures for unaffiliated and new-party candidates. The judge authorized candidates to collect petition signatures electronically; extended the filing deadline to August 7; and reduced petition signature requirements to 10 percent of their original numbers. The judge also ordered that Libertarian and Green party candidates for offices for which the parties achieved ballot access in either 2018 or 2016 qualify for placement on the general election ballot in 2020.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- At least seven lawsuits seeking court orders suspending or changing requirements and deadlines.
- Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
- Forty-two states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year:students in the United States: 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, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Those states account for 87.9% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- Of the eight states that have not announced that schools will for the remainder of the year, four have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and two have divided governments.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- North Carolina – Gov. Roy Cooper (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 15.
- Rhode Island – Gov. Gina Raimondo (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.
- Nineteen 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.
- Vermont – The Vermont Supreme Court ordered that anyone entering Judiciary buildings must wear cloth face masks that cover the nose and mouth. This order applies to staff, participants, lawyers, members of the media and members of the public.
- Arkansas – The Supreme Court of Arkansas extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through May 15. Prior to the order, restrictions were set to expire on 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.
- Kentucky – The Kentucky Supreme Court issued an order setting an emergency administrative release schedule to expedite the release of certain pre-trial defendants. The emergency release schedule will be implemented through May 31.
- Mississippi – The Supreme Court of Mississippi ordered senior circuit judges to review the cases of all pretrial defendants who are eligible for bail. The order allows judges to take into consideration the impact of coronavirus, either real or potential, within an individual detention center when reviewing cases as a condition of release.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
State legislative responses
- To date, 613 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Eighty-eight significant bills have been enacted into law, about 14 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.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
- No changes today