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 5, 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 Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end date.
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 4, 1918, the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune published an article titled, “Slow Improvement In Health Status, Declares Dr. Peters.” With the 1918 midterm election day coming up, the article included an interview with Dr. W.H. Peters, Cincinnati’s health officer, who was asked when bans might be lifted as influenza cases in the city were beginning to wane.
“The influenza situation is slowly showing improvement, but health officials will not venture a prediction as to the probable time the ban will be lifted.”
“Dr. W.H. Peters, Health Officer, said Sunday that the situation was encouraging. Asked as to when the ban would be lifted, he said:
‘That is a question I can not answer at this time. The situation is hopeful and the disease seems to be on the wane, but it could not justify the lifting of the ban at this time.
Election night, when there is a danger of crowds collecting, might result in an increase in the number of new cases again, as happened directly after the demonstration several weeks ago over the German peace news. The condition at the General Hospital, where the discharges outnumbered the admissions of new cases, would indicate a very hopeful condition.’”
- Vice President Mike Pence (R) told reporters the White House was considering winding down its coronavirus task force in May or June. Pence has overseen the task force since January. According to Pence, task force responsibilities could be transferred to other federal agencies.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 58 lawsuits, spanning 30 states, relating to governmental actions undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 15 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 43 lawsuits, spanning 24 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 15 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-six states have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Connecticut – Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) has unveiled a plan for conducting both the state’s primary and general elections. As part of that plan, every eligible voter in each election will be sent an absentee ballot application automatically. Pre-paid postage will be provided for both the applications and the ballots themselves. Drop boxes for the return of absentee ballots will also be installed in each municipality. In-person voting for each election is slated to occur as planned.
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.
- Forty-seven states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Those states account for 97.6% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- Of the three states that have not announced that schools will for the remainder of the year, one has a Republican trifecta and two have divided governments. Those three states are Maryland, Montana, and Wyoming.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- Connecticut – Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that schools would remain closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 20.
- Twenty governors or state agencies have issued an executive order restricting out-of-state travelers.
- Kentucky – U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman ruled against a portion of the travel restrictions enacted by Gov. Andy Beshear (D). The Court found the restrictions, which limited the reasons residents of Kentucky could leave the state, infringed on the right to engage in interstate travel.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Florida – The Florida Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through July 2.
- Missouri – The Missouri Supreme Court issued “Operational Directives for Easing COVID-19 Restrictions on In-Person Proceedings,” to assist courts in making safe decisions on the local level regarding court operations. Directives include gateway criteria for resuming court activity or entering a new operating phase, such as no confirmed cases in the court facility within a 14 day period. In the operating phase, directives include social distancing measures and the use of face masks by employees and the public.
- Texas – The Texas Supreme Court issued “Guidance for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic” for proceedings on or after June 1. Directives include courts conducting hearings remotely whenever possible and no jury trials until the Supreme Court issues guidance.
Prison inmate responses
- Eighteen states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
- Fourteen states have ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
- Twelve 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.
- North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Corrections announced that since March 1, 485 inmates have been released early from state prisons to slow the spread of coronavirus. An additional 182 inmates were released to serve the remainder of their sentences in home confinement.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty one states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level
State legislative responses
- To date, 892 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- To date, 104 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 12 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-three state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Six of those have since reconvened.
- Nineteen 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 are in special session.
- Louisiana – The Louisiana State Legislature reconvened on May 4. Its session had been suspended since March 16, with the exception of a brief meeting on March 31 to extend the suspension.