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 8, 2020.
State stay-at-home orders
- Forty-three states issued statewide shutdown orders. Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.
- As of May 8, 15 governors have ended their state’s stay-at-home orders. Twelve of those states have Republican governors and three have Democratic governors. Of the 28 states where governors have not ended their state’s stay-at-home orders, seven have Republican governors and 21 have Democratic governors. (Rhode Island’s stay-at-home order runs through the end of the day.)
- Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced he was extending the stay-at-home order through June 4 for counties that remain in the red phase of the state’s reopening plan. Twenty-four counties entered the yellow phase of the reopening plan May 8, allowing some businesses to reopen.
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 18, 1918, the Louisville Times published an article titled, “State Board Here To Discuss Quarantine.” The article discussed the possibility of Kentucky’s State Board of Health lifting the ban on theaters, schools and public gatherings. The article also mentioned the possible effect keeping the bans would have on the upcoming campaign season.
“For the purpose of discussing the influenza epidemic and the question of lifting the ban on theaters, schools and public gatherings the State Board of Health will meet at The Seelbach this afternoon at 2 o’clock…Unless the ban is lifted at the meeting this afternoon, it will be necessary for the campaign committees of both the Democratic and Republican parties to call off all public speaking schedules throughout the State for the next two weeks.
- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to allow for the first diagnostic test using saliva self-collected by patients at home. The test, developed by Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory, tests saliva samples for COVID-19.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 67 lawsuits, spanning 32 states, relating to governmental actions undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 18 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 48 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 19 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Twelve states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-seven states have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
- Oklahoma – Gov Kevin Stitt (R) signed SB210 into law, reinstating the absentee ballot notarization requirement struck down by the state supreme court on May 4. The legislation also includes provisions applicable only to the 2020 election cycle. SB210 permits voters to submit copies of their identification in lieu of fulfilling the notarization requirement in the event of a state of emergency occurring within 45 days of an election. The legislation also specifies that individuals experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19, and individuals classified as vulnerable to infection, can cast an absentee ballot under the ‘physical incapacitation’ eligibility criterion.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Six states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least eleven lawsuits were filed seeking court orders about signature requirements, deadlines, and procedures.
- 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.
- Oklahoma – Yes on 805, sponsors of Oklahoma State Question 805, the Criminal History in Sentencing and Sentence Modification Initiative, filed a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking for Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers to accept for verification the more than 260,000 signatures the group had already turned in. Rogers said he would not accept the signatures until the state’s emergency declaration ends, which was set to end at the start of June.
- Forty-eight 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, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Those states account for XX of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.
- All 50 states ordered a statewide school closure in some form.
- 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.
- Virginia – The Virginia Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through May 18. Jury trials are suspended until further notice.
- Mississippi – The Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order that allows judges in counties where there are two or less deaths to issue jury summonses with a return date that is on or after May 18. In all other counties, jury trials are allowed to resume June 15.
- Maryland – Chief Justice for the Maryland Court of Appeals Ellen Barbera announced that June 8 is the projected date that courts in the state could begin to reopen. The Chief Justice said that reopening would come in phases and courthouses would require restructuring to incorporate social distancing measures.
Prison inmate responses
- Nineteen states have released inmates at the state level.
- Thirteen states have released 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.
- Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Corrections announced that nearly 1,600 inmates have been released since March to help slow the spread of coronavirus. According to the Department of Corrections, most of the inmates released were held on probation, parole, or extended supervision violations.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty one states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
- Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued an executive order extending the moratorium on evictions in the state through at least July 10. The original order, issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was set to expire on May 11.
State legislative responses
- To date, 977 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 105 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 11 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. Seven 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.