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 May 1, 2020.
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 Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.
- Georgia – Gov. Brian Kemp (R) extended the shelter-in-place order for the elderly and other medically fragile groups to June 12. As part of the order, long-term care facilities are also required to use enhanced infection control protocols. The stay-at-home order for all other groups expired April 30.
- Michigan – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order extending the closure of bars, gyms, casinos, and theaters through May 28. Under the order, restaurants may continue offering only delivery or takeout services through May 28.
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 6, 1918, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article titled, “Even Influenza Avails Not To Dampen Ardor of Voters.” The article discussed the fact that while masks were required to vote, it didn’t deter voters from heading to the polls.
“San Francisco yesterday staged the first masked ballot ever known in the history of America.
Everyone who voted had to wear a mask and to that extent was handicapped in the discharge of his electoral responsibilities. Despite that fact, however, or mayhap because of it, the election was described by the officers of the scores of booths visited as the quietest within memory.”
One of those voters was Mrs. Nancy Elworthy.
“Probably the oldest and most lighthearted voter of the day was Mrs. Nancy Elworthy of 1480 Larkin street, who came down unaided from her home to the booth in the middle of the block between California and Pine streets. Mrs. Elworthy is 92, she belongs to one of the “F.F.V’s” and her husband was a field officer in the Confederate army.
‘I thought I would be blind before this election’, she cheerily explained to the officials in the booth, ‘but I can still see a little and I think it is the duty of every citizen to vote at every election as long as he or she can take an intelligent interest in public affairs.’”
- The Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of remdesivir, an antiviral drug produced by Gilead Sciences, after a government-sponsored study showed it decreased recovery time in patients with COVID-19.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 56 lawsuits, spanning 29 states, relating to governmental actions undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rulings have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 15 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 37 lawsuits, spanning 22 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Rulings have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 12 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-five 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.
- Six states changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least eight lawsuits were filed seeking court orders suspending or changing requirements and deadlines.
- At least one initiative campaign is reporting it has enough signatures but is delaying signature submission so its measure appears on the ballot in 2022 instead of 2020.
- California – Proponents of the California Changes to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap Initiative announced that they had collected more than enough signatures but would not file them for the election on November 3, 2020. Instead, the campaign would delay filing the signatures so the initiative would appear on the ballot for the election on November 8, 2022.
- Massachusetts – According to a judgement by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the initiative campaigns supporting the four initiatives that could still qualify for the 2020 ballot in Massachusetts will be able to gather their second rounds of 13,347 signatures each by distributing the petitions online to be electronically signed or printed and mailed or emailed back to the campaign. The initiative sponsors and Secretary of State William Galvin (D) agreed to the judgement, precluding a full hearing.
- Forty-four 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, New York Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Those states account for 93.4% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- Of the six states that have not announced that schools will for the remainder of the year, two have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and two have divided governments.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that schools in the state would remain closed to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were scheduled to remain closed until May 15.
- Twenty governors or state agencies have issued an executive order placing restrictions on out-of-state travelers
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Alabama – On April 30, the Alabama 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 that day.
Prison inmate responses
- Seventeen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
- Fourteen 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.
- Four states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.
- Illinois – On April 29, the State of Illinois released a list of 4,000 inmates who were released since March to reduce the inmate population in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in Illinois’s state prisons. Many of the inmates released had their sentences commuted or were granted a temporary medical furlough, per Pritzker April 7 order authorizing the temporary release of medically vulnerable inmates.
- Louisiana – Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) office announced that 53 inmates, out of the 249 inmates considered, had been released as part of the Louisiana Department of Corrections furlough program announced earlier in April
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
- South Carolina – The South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty ordered that evictions and foreclosures in the state can resume beginning May 15.
State legislative responses
- To date, 783 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Ninety-nine significant bills have been enacted into law, about 13 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.
- Eighteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Four state legislatures are in regular session.
- Four state legislatures are in special session.
- South Carolina – The South Carolina legislature is slated to resume its session on May 12.