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 19, 2020.
State stay-at-home orders
- Forty-three states issued orders directing residents to stay home except for essential activities and the closure or curtailment of businesses each state deemed nonessential. Seven states did not.
- As of May 19, stay-at-home orders have ended in 25 states. Governors ended stay-at-home orders in 24 states—17 Republican governors and eight 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 18 states with stay-at-home orders in place, two have Republican governors and 16 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 March 21, 2020, The New York Times published an article titled, “The Lessons of the Elections of 1918.” The article discussed how, despite the Influenza epidemic, the nation managed to vote and keep democracy intact.
“Across the country, citizens were ordered to hunker in their homes to avoid catching a deadly virus even as some people thought it was nothing worse than a seasonal cold. In the midst of fear and sickness, politicians had to decide how to hold scheduled elections, and the global pandemic was subject to political spin.
The year was 1918 when a deadly flu outbreak gripped the nation, infecting about a third of the world’s population and killing 675,000 people in the United States alone.”
- The White House announced that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had awarded a $354 million contract to Phlow Corp., a Virginia-based pharmaceutical company, to manufacture generic medicines and ingredients used to treat COVID-19. The four-year contract is part of an effort by the White House to return pharmaceutical manufacturing to the United States.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 80 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 26 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 60 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 24 of those lawsuits.
- Elkhorn Baptist Church v. Brown: On May 18, the Oregon Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that had overturned the state’s stay-at-home order, pending further review by the state supreme court. Earlier in the day, Baker County Circuit Judge Matt Shirtcliff issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the state’s stay-at-home order and other executive orders issued by Gov. Kate Brown (D) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Fourteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-eight states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
- Michigan – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced that all registered voters in the August primary and November general election will receive mail-in ballot applications automatically.
- New York – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a federal district court order reinstating the New York Democratic presidential preference primary. The primary will proceed as scheduled on June 23. The New York State Board of Elections had attempted to cancel the election, a move which was overturned earlier this month by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
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 two initiative campaigns reported they had enough signatures but are delaying signature submission so their measures appear 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.
- 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
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.
- Texas – Eviction proceedings were allowed to resume in Texas on Tuesday, May 19, following a May 14 order from the Texas Supreme Court.
State legislative responses
- To date, 1,300 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 119 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.
- South Carolina – Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed H3411 into law. The bill is a continuing resolution that provides for the uninterrupted operation of state government into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The bill also grants the state legislature the sole authority to determine how to spend $1.9 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.
State legislative session changes
- Twenty-three state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Ten 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.