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 28, 2020.
Plans to reopen
Read more: State government plans to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced the state would transition from a “Stay At Home” order to a “Safer At Home” order beginning on April 30 at 5 p.m. and lasting until May 15. The new order will allow some businesses to reopen under sanitation and social-distancing guidelines, retail stores to open at 50% max occupancy, and beaches to reopen with gatherings limited to 10 and required social distancing. Restaurants will remain limited to takeout and delivery. Alabama is a Republican trifecta.
- Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) is scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon to outline the state’s plan to reopen the economy. Maine is a Democratic trifecta.
- Nevada joined the Western States Pact with California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to coordinate on a regional response to the pandemic. All four states are Democratic trifectas.
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order allowing retail stores, malls, restaurants, and theaters to reopen on May 1 at 25% max occupancy. The order also allows libraries and museums to open. The new order supersedes any local orders. Abbott said he wants personal care businesses, gyms, and bars to open “as soon as possible” and said he expected that to happen by mid-May.
- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced on Monday that nonessential businesses can begin to offer curbside pickup for goods or animals on Wednesday. Outdoor recreational rentals and entirely automatic car washes may also open if free of contact with customers.
Debate over government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
On Monday, the New York State Board of Elections canceled the state’s June 23 primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, we’ll look at statements about the cancellation and reactions to it:
- Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York Democratic Party, said, “The fact that (Sanders) is not running makes this a nonessential primary. Given that we’ve stopped nonessential business in New York and other states, it seemed intelligent to not go forward with a nonessential primary.”
- Jeff Weaver, senior adviser to the Bernie 2020 campaign, said, “Today’s decision by the State of New York Board of Elections is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC. … What the Board of Elections is ignoring is that the primary process not only leads to a nominee but also the selection of delegates which helps determine the platform and rules of the Democratic Party. No one asked New York to cancel the election. The DNC didn’t request it. The Biden campaign didn’t request it. And our campaign communicated that we wanted to remain on the ballot.”
- Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, said, “And what the Sanders supporters want is, essentially, a beauty contest, that given the situation, with the public health emergency, that exists now, seems to be unnecessary and indeed frivolous.”
- Sochie Nnaemeka, state chair of the New York Working Families Party, said, “[What] the state Democratic Party has shown us is that the votes of progressives don’t actually matter in this moment, in a moment where Americans want Medicare for All, where we want student debt relief, where we actually want a bold response to the climate crisis that we’re in.”
- The Daily Gazette Editorial Board defended the cancellation of the election, “The reason political parties hold primary elections is to determine the candidate who will represent them in the general election. It’s not to provide the losing candidate with additional clout to get his positions put into the winning candidate’s platform. And it’s not to provide a forum for candidates’ backers to express their views or support for their guy.”
- Concerning how the state party would allocate delegates, Jacobs said, “What we’re going to do in discussions with the Biden campaign and the Sanders campaign is try to come up with some fair allocation, so that the delegates that go to the convention will have Sanders’ voices as well, as they would have had had we had the primary.”
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 5, 1918, the Los Angeles Times, published an article titled, “Masked Men To Front Voters.” The article discussed the fact that all election officers were required to wear masks by the direction of the health department.
“Thousands of people who go to the polls today to cast their votes will be confronted by masked men for the first time in their lives. The Advisory Committee of the health department yesterday instructed Registrar of Voters Lyons to order all election officers to wear masks while on duty today. This edict was not issued to frighten people away from the polls, it is said, but rather to throw around voters an additional protection against the disease”
- The Supreme Court of the United States announced new procedures for conducting oral arguments via conference call on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13. The cases had been previously postponed in March and April. The Court will use a teleconferencing system to hear oral arguments. Several new procedures were announced, including rules for which Justices will ask questions based on seniority.
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 12 of those lawsuits.
- Bailey v. Pritzker: Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney granted a restraining order temporarily blocking Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) 30-day extension of the state’s stay-at-home order. According to CBS News Chicago, the restraining order applies only to the plaintiff in the case, state Rep. Darren Bailey (R). This means that Bailey does not have to follow the order past its prior expiration date. The order also gives other state residents the opportunity to join in the lawsuit or file their own. Pritzker said he would appeal the ruling.
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.
- Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that the state would transition to a “Safer At Home” order on April 30 at 5:00 p.m. The new order will allow certain businesses to reopen and will be effective through May 15.
- Illinois – Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney granted a restraining order temporarily blocking Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) 30-day extension of the state’s stay-at-home order. The restraining order was issued in the case of Bailey v. Pritzker, a lawsuit filed last week by state Rep. Darren Bailey (R). Pritzker said he would appeal the ruling. According to CBS News Chicago, the restraining order only applies to Bailey, meaning that only he does not have to follow the stay-at-home order extension. It does, however, create an opportunity for others in the state to join in the lawsuit or file their own.
- Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced he would not extend the state’s stay-at-home order, which expires April 30. He announced that retail stores, malls, restaurants, and theaters would be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity beginning on May 1. The text of the order says that it supersedes all local orders.
- 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.
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, Delaware, 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.
- Nineteen governors or state agencies have issued an executive order placing restrictions on out-of-state travelers.
- Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that, as part of the state’s reopening plan, travelers from Louisiana would no longer have to self-quarantine for 14-days. The mandatory 14-day quarantine will remain in place for visitors from the following states. Visitors from the following cities are also still required to self-quarantine for 14-days: Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; and Miami, Florida.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level
- Arkansas – A Supreme Court task force issued a memo titled, “Preparation of Returning to In-Person Proceedings.” The memo details a two-pronged approach put forth by the Department of Health to help minimize the risk of exposure by 1) screening to identify individuals who are symptomatic or who have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus through temperature checks and questionnaires, and 2) maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks and avoiding contact with hard surfaces to protect against exposure from individuals who are asymptomatic. In-person proceedings and jury trials are suspended in the state through May 15.
- Michigan – The Michigan Supreme Court extended the suspension of jury trials through June 22.
- Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings though June 1, and suspended jury trials through July 1. The order goes into effect on May 4.
- Montana – Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath issued a memo directing courts to implement practices after May 4, when restrictions on in-person proceedings are expected to be lifted, to limit the spread of coronavirus. Practices include continuing to hear most cases remotely through video or phone conference and social distancing.
- Texas – The Texas Supreme Court issued an order allowing local courts to take steps to limit the spread of coronavirus through June 1. Prior to the order, local courts were permitted to take steps through May 8.
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.
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, 686 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-four state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Four of those have since reconvened.
- Nineteen 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.
- Illinois – As of April 28, according to the Illinois General Assembly website, the Senate is scheduled to reconvene on May 5. A re-convene date for the House is not available. The May 5 date represents an extension of the suspension, which was originally presumed to last through April 28.
- Iowa – Iowa’s legislature has extended its suspension through May 15. The suspension was initially scheduled to last through April 15. It was subsequently extended further, first to April 30, then to May 15.
- Ohio – Ohio’s legislature has extended its suspension. The House is scheduled to reconvene on May 6. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on May 13.