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 27, 2020.
Plans to reopen
Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Colorado permitted the following to begin or resume Monday: retail curbside pickup, elective surgeries, and real estate showings. Gov. Jared Polis (D) released guidelines for specific industries to follow on Sunday. Colorado is a Democratic trifecta.
- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) April 23 executive order established guidelines allowing certain businesses to reopen. These include: gyms, bowling alleys, body art studios, and businesses run by barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, and massage therapists last Friday and restaurants and movie theaters Monday. Georgia is a Republican trifecta.
- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) released benchmarks that, if met, would trigger the state to begin a phased reopening of businesses. Benchmarks include: 14 days of decreasing cases, increased testing capacity and contact tracing, 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 a possible future spike, and status of vaccine and treatment. Kentucky is under divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) released a three-phase plan for reopening businesses and activities in the state tied to benchmarks as opposed to a start date. See the “Plan to know” section below for an in-depth look at Maryland’s plan. Maryland is under divided government.
- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order loosening some of the restrictions in his original April 3 stay-at-home order. The new “Safer at Home” plan allows some businesses to reopen, with restrictions, such as limiting the number of customers allowed inside and making hand sanitizer widely available. Gatherings of 10 or more individuals are still prohibited. Mississippi is a Republican trifecta.
- Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) is scheduled to announce reopening plans Monday afternoon.
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced six principles for recovery: a sustained reduction in new cases, expanded testing, robust contact tracing, safe places for those with positive diagnoses to isolate, responsible economic restart, and ensuring resiliency. Murphy said the first four principles must be attained before the last two. New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a plan for reopening the state involving different schedules for different regions. The plan would be triggered by a 14-day decline in hospitalization rate and involve two phases, between which there would be a two-week waiting period to monitor effects of phase one. New York is a Democratic trifecta.
- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) was set to announce a plan to reopen businesses in a briefing Monday afternoon.
- Oklahoma allowed personal care businesses including barbershops, nail salons, and spas to reopen Friday under certain guidelines. Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) plan also reopens state parks and outdoor recreation. Oklahoma is a Republican trifecta.
- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) office released a three-phase plan taking a regional approach to reopening. Criteria for reopening include “having fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days,” adequate testing capacity for symptomatic individuals and target populations, contact tracing capacity, and adequate safeguards in high-risk settings. Pennsylvania is under divided government.
- Tennessee allowed restaurants to open at 50% occupancy Monday, and retailers will be allowed to open at 50% occupancy Wednesday. Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) guidelines apply to 89 of the state’s 95 counties. Counties with their own health departments have their own reopening plans. Tennessee is a Republican trifecta.
- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released a plan that would allow Virginia businesses to begin reopening under safety restrictions, social distancing requirements, and recommended public face coverings. The first phase would begin after the state increases its testing capacity, number of available hospital beds, and supply of personal protective equipment while experiencing a two-week decline in positive coronavirus tests and hospitalizations. Virginia is a Democratic trifecta.
- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced a six-week phased reopening plan, which would be triggered by three consecutive days of a less than 3 percent cumulative statewide positive test rate. Week one would include restarting elective surgical procedures and reopening daycares. Week two would include outdoor dining, appointment-only professional services such as barbershops, church services with social distancing, and more. Other types of businesses and facilities would reopen weeks three through six. West Virginia is a Republican trifecta.
- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed a new executive order late Monday afternoon. This breaking development occurred just as this newsletter was being sent. Visit Ballotpedia.org for updates. Wisconsin is under divided government.
States are broken up into the following five categories of reopenings on the maps below:
- Reopenings in progress: the state has already lifted restrictions on some industries put in place because of the pandemic.
- Announced reopenings, effective date: the state will reopen or partially reopen three or more industries on a set date.
- Announced reopenings, contingent date: the state will reopen or partially reopen three or more industries on a targeted date, dependent on other conditions.
- Announced reopenings, no date: the state has a plan to reopen three or more industries entirely dependent on conditions.
- Limited or no announced reopening plan: the state has not yet put forth a plan to reopen there or more industries.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
President Donald Trump (R) signed a stimulus bill on Friday infusing the Paycheck Protection Program with more than $300 billion in funding to provide forgivable loans to companies with 500 or fewer employees.
With the second round of the program opening up today, we turn our attention to reactions to the initiative:
- Trump said at the signing ceremony, “I want to thank Congress for answering my call to pass this critical funding. And the bill includes, as you probably know … $320 billion to refill the Paycheck Protection Program, helping keep millions and millions of American workers on the payroll. Great for small businesses. Great for the workers.”
- Attorney David Helbraun said the program should loosen restrictions on how the money is spent. “They need to relax the 75% rule [of funding for payroll costs] and allow small business owners and restaurateurs to use that money the way they need to use it. What’s happening now is restaurateurs and small business people are becoming unemployment offices.”
- Discussing additional relief programs, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Let’s see what we’re doing that’s succeeding, what is not succeeding, what needs less and what needs more. Let’s weigh this very carefully because the future of our country, in terms of the amount of debt we’re adding up, is a matter of genuine concern.”
- Amanda Ballantyne, the executive director of The Main Street Alliance, said, “The dangerous inequities we saw with the first round will not be resolved [in the second round of funding].” She continued, “With funding likely to run out in 48 hours, it is ludicrous that Congress thinks it has already done its job supporting small businesses.”
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 3, 1918, the Rocky Mountain News, published an article titled, “Precautions At Polls Ordered To Prevent Spread Of Plague.” The article discussed the precautions polling places put in place ahead of the general election.
“To prevent the spread of the influenza epidemic at the polling places Tuesday, the state board of health yesterday issued an order setting forth precautions to be observed by voters and election officials. The order urges upon the electors of the state to exercise every precaution to prevent a further spreading of the epidemic on election day; on the part of the election judges, clerks and other officials in the polling places, by wearing the standard Red Cross gauze mask; on the part of voters by refraining from crowding into the election rooms and from assembling in groups for political discussions.”
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 51 lawsuits in 28 states relating to actions or policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rulings have been issued in 11 of those lawsuits.
- Bailey v. Pritzker – State Rep. Darren Bailey (R) filed a lawsuit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Illinois. Bailey’s lawsuit claims that Pritzker’s extension of the state’s stay-at-home order through May 30 exceeds his authority as governor and violates the civil rights of Illinois residents.
- Women’s Health Center of West Virginia v. Morrisey – The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia against Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit seeks relief against the classification of abortions as elective surgeries (and thus postponed under an executive order). In April, Morrisey said Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) ban on elective surgeries applied to abortions as well.
- First Baptist Church et al v. Kelly – On Saturday, both sides in the case asked a judge to extend the current temporary restraining order in the case from May 2 to May 16. The two sides came to the agreement after Kanas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced that she would issue a new order easing restrictions on mass gatherings, specifically eliminating the attendance limits if a 6-foot distance can be maintained. The new order is expected to take effect May 4.
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.
- Hawaii – Gov. David Ige (D) announced he was extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 31. Previously, the order was scheduled to expire on April 30. Hawaii has a Democratic trifecta.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-four states have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Kentucky – Governor Andy Beshear (D) has issued an executive order directing “all Kentuckians [to] utilize absentee voting by mail for the June 23, 2020, primary election if they are able to do so.” Under normal circumstances, absentee voting in Kentucky is restricted to voters meeting select eligibility criteria. Beshear’s order effectively suspended those eligibility requirements for the June 23 primary.
- New York – Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered that all eligible voters in the June 23 primary be sent absentee ballot applications automatically.
- New York – The New York State Board of Elections canceled the state’s Democratic presidential preference primary, which had been scheduled to take place on June 23, 2020.
- Utah – Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed HB3005 into law, canceling in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration in the upcoming election. These actions did not apply to San Juan County. The legislation also extended the postmark deadline for mail-in ballots to June 30. The voter registration deadline was set to occur on June 19.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Five states changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least seven lawsuits seeking court orders suspending or changing requirements and deadlines.
- Forty-three 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 88.1% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- Of the seven states that have not announced that schools will for the remainder of the year, three have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and two have divided governments.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- Delaware – On Friday afternoon, Gov. John Carney (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.
- Nineteen governors or state agencies have issued an executive order placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Idaho – The Idaho Supreme Court suspended criminal jury trials through August 3 and civil trials through October 5. The order also established minimum court staffing for courts to operate.
- Kentucky – The Kentucky Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspended jury trials through May 31.
- New Jersey – The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an order allowing Municipal Courts in the state to resume individual sessions via video or phone only.
- Tennessee – The Tennessee Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through May 31 and suspension of jury trials through June 3.
Prison inmate responses
- Seventeen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
- Fifteen states have ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
- Thirteen 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.
- Virginia – In an April 22 special session of Virginia’s General Assembly, lawmakers approved an amendment proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam to allow limited inmate releases due to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the amendment, the Virginia Department of Corrections has the authority to release nonviolent inmates with a year or less left on their sentence. The authority is granted through July 2021.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
- Mississippi – Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued executive order 1477, part of which extended the suspension of evictions in the state through the end of the shelter in place order, set to expire May 11. The order directed all state, county, and local law enforcement to cease enforcement of evictions on residential property during the “safer-at-home” order. Prior to the order, the suspension on evictions was set to expire on April 24.
- Hawaii – Gov. David Ige (D) extended the state’s “stay-at-home” order through May 31. As part of the order, the eviction moratorium put in place on April 17 prohibiting evictions from residential properties for failure to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic, was extended through May 31. Prior to the order, the eviction moratorium was set to expire April 30.
State legislative responses
- To date, 661 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Ninety-four significant bills have been enacted into law, 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-five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Five of those have since reconvened.
- Eighteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Three state legislatures are in regular session.
- Four state legislatures are in special session.
- Alabama – The Alabama State Legislature extended its suspension through May 4. The suspension had initially been scheduled to last through April 28.
- Kansas – The Kansas State Legislature extended its suspension indefinitely. A veto session, originally scheduled for April 27, has likewise been postponed indefinitely. Legislative leaders are expected to decide on a date to reconvene by May 6.
- Michigan – A special session of the Michigan State Legislature convened on April 24.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island State Legislature extended its suspension through May 1. The suspension has been extended on a weekly basis for the past several weeks.
Read more: Multistate agreements to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Colorado and Nevada became part of the Western States Pact, joining Washington, Oregon and California, to coordinate the gradual lifting of restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.