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 11, 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 Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.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 11, 16 governors have ended their state’s stay-at-home orders. Twelve of those states have Republican governors and four have Democratic governors. Of the 27 states where governors have not ended their state’s stay-at-home orders, seven have Republican governors and 20 have Democratic governors.
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 16, 1918, the Chicago Tribune, published an article titled, “Politics faces real shutdown by influenza.” The article discussed the possible effects the influenza pandemic could have on the upcoming elections season.
“Threatened with a complete cessation of political activity from two angles, Republican and Democratic managers-state and local-are prepared to decide definitely upon ways and means of conduction the Illinois senatorial, congressional, and local campaigns.
Pending official action by the state and city health authorities, all plans for opening the extensive speaking campaigns which had been arranged for state candidates were held in abeyance, and campaigns will not be started next Monday morning unless full and free permission is granted by competent authority.”
- In a call with state governors, Vice President Mike Pence (R) said the federal government was recommending that states test all nursing home staff and residents over the next two weeks.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 69 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 19 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 50 lawsuits, spanning 25 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.
- Tabernacle Baptist Church, Inc. v. Beshear: Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, blocked the state from enforcing its ban on mass gatherings as applied to religious groups. The plaintiffs had alleged that state orders restricting mass gatherings and closing churches as nonessential businesses violated their First Amendment rights.
Tatenhove sided with the plaintiffs, writing the following in his order: “Plaintiffs have established a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to their free exercise claim, and the Court grants their motion for a [temporary restraining order] on that basis. … To stay the prohibition on mass gatherings with respect to religious services which observe the social distancing guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control, as Tabernacle has promised to do, does not harm the Defendants. Finally, the public interest favors the enjoinment of a constitutional violation.”
- 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.
- California – On May 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order directing county election officials to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the November 3 general election. Newsom announced that in-person voting locations would still be available.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia tracked 20 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Seven 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.
- Montana – The Montana Secretary of State issued a declaratory order enabling ballot measure campaigns to circulate petitions online so that supporters may print, sign, and return them, including through the mail.
- Forty-eight states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Those states account for 99.4% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country. The two states to not close schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year are Montana and Wyoming.
- 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.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Supreme Court announced that the court would hear cases remotely via video conference for the first time in the court’s 273 year history.
- Arizona – The Arizona Supreme Court ordered courts to begin transitioning to in-person proceedings, beginning June 1. They also issued “Standards for Resumption of On-site Court Operations During a Public Health Emergency”, which outlined a five-phased approach to reopening. Under the order, the court allows local judges to determine how in-person proceedings should be phased in and conducted in their respective counties.
- Arkansas – The Arkansas Supreme Court announced that courts in the state could resume conducting hearings under certain guidelines to slow the spread of coronavirus beginning May 18. Guidelines include limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people and encouraging the use of alternative venues, such as auditoriums, if the courtroom is not sufficient to maintain social distancing. The order also allows presiding judges to determine if a hearing should be held through video or teleconference or in-person.
- Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court issued “Responsible RestartOhio Court Access Plan” which provides guidelines for the operation of Ohio’s judicial system. The plan includes providing daily health assessments of employees and establishing a process for the sanitation and cleaning of court facilities.
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.
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, 1,054 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 107 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 10 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. Nine 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.
- Two state legislatures are in special session.
- Colorado – The Colorado State Legislature has extended its suspension through May 26. The suspension was originally scheduled to last through March 30. It was subsequently extended, first through April 2, then through May 18, and then through May 26.
- Hawaii – The Hawaii State Legislature reconvened today. The session had been suspended since March 17.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island State Legislature has extended its suspension through May 15. The suspension, which has been in place since March 16, was originally scheduled to last through April 3. It has been extended on a weekly basis since.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
State politicians who self-quarantined for coronavirus
- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced that he and members of his office would self-quarantine after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Pritzker received a test Sunday, which came back negative for the virus.