As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage of 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 15, 2020.
State stay-at-home orders
- Forty-three states issued statewide stay-at-home 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 Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.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 15, stay-at-home orders have ended in 23 states. Governors ended stay-at-home orders in 22 states—16 Republican governors and six Democratic governors. Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) administration overstepped its authority in extending that state’s stay-at-home order. Of the 20 states with stay-at-home orders in place, three have Republican governors and 17 have Democratic governors.
- New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on May 14 that the state’s stay-at-home order was extended through May 28 for regions, including New York City, that do not meet the state’s reopening criteria. However, five regions that met the criteria could proceed with reopenings of some nonessential businesses beginning May 15, including construction, manufacturing and retail for curbside pick up only. Those regions are: the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North County, and the Southern Tier. Cuomo said in a tweet that as soon as a region hits it’s benchmarks for reopening, they can do so before 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 3, 1918, the Buffalo Courier published an article titled, “Courier’s Famous Board Will Flash Election Results.” The article discussed how the Courier would post election results on the bulletin board outside of the newspaper’s three-story building.
“All is set for The Courier’s election bulletin board which will cover the entire three-story front of its office building. For many years The Courier has given to the public the earliest, most complete and most reliable election returns in the city, county, state and nation. This year special arrangements have been made for the display of returns within a few minutes of the polls.
Speed records will be broken in collecting the statistics which will be rushed from the 246 election districts of the city to the city hall for computation. So complete are the arrangements that within a few minutes after the 6 p.m. when the polls-an hour later than usual-results will be flashed on the bulletin board in characters so conspicuous that he that runs may read.
Professional runners with motorcycles, bicycles, automobiles have been impressed into service for election night, and a corps of training experts will compile the figures with accuracy and rapidity. This year newly enfranchised women will cast their ballots for the first time in New York state, and the election throng will doubtless be swelled by the fairr sex in larger numbers than ever before.”
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued reopening guidelines for businesses and workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 74 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 21 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 56 lawsuits, spanning 26 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 20 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Fourteen states have modified candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-eight states have made modifications to voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have adjusted party events on a statewide basis.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia has tracked 21 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least 11 lawsuits were filed seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines. Rulings or settlements have been issued for six.
- 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-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.
- Wyoming – The statewide school closure ended today. Decisions on reopening will be left up to individual districts. Schools in the state had been closed to in-person instruction since March 23.
- 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.
- New Jersey – The New Jersey Judiciary announced the creation of a new virtual grand jury pilot program. Virtual proceedings will occur in Bergen and Mercer counties within the next two weeks, according to an order signed by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. The pilot program will be used to determine whether similar remote grand juries will be expanded to other county and state proceedings.
Prison inmate responses
- Twenty-one states have released inmates at the state level
- Twelve states have released inmates on the local level
- Eleven 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, 1,215 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 113 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 9 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. Nine of those have since reconvened.
- Twenty 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.
- Iowa – Iowa’s state legislature extended its suspension through June 3.
- Wyoming – Wyoming’s state legislature convened a special session today.
Read more: Multistate agreements to reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020
- Western States Pact – On May 11, the Western States Pact sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), requesting $1 trillion in direct and flexible relief to state and local governments. Members of the Western States Pact include California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.