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 21, 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 Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.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 21, stay-at-home orders have ended in 27 states. Eighteen of those states have Republican governors and nine have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Of the 16 states with active stay-at-home orders, one has a Republican governor and 15 have Democratic governors.
- North Carolina – Gov. Roy Cooper’s (R) announced on May 20 that his stay-at-home order will end at 5:00 p.m. on May 22. Replacing it is a safer-at-home order that will remain in effect through at least June 26. Under the order, limits on gatherings are increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and a number of businesses can reopen as part of Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.
- Ohio – On May 20, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Action signed three new health orders. One order partially rescinded the state’s stay-at-home order, “Stay Safe Ohio,” and another issued a series of health advisories, including urging, but not requiring, high-risk individuals to remain in their homes. A third order, “Camp Safe Ohio”, specifies how campgrounds can reopen safely. Campgrounds were permitted to open on May 21.
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 Department of Defense ended a ban on new recruits who had been at any point in the past hospitalized for COVID-19. Matthew Donavan, the under secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said the military would evaluate recruits who had recovered from the disease on a case-by-case basis.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 82 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 28 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 65 lawsuits, spanning 27 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 27 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Fourteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-seven states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in 18 states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
- Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico’s Democratic Party postponed its presidential preference primary to July 12. It had been postponed indefinitely after first being rescheduled for April 26. The original primary date was March 29.
- Texas – The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily stayed a federal district court ruling requiring that all eligible Texas voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19.
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.
- Of the 20 executive orders issued by governors or state agencies placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors, at least six have been rescinded.
- Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced he was ending the 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami. In late April, Abbott lifted the quarantine requirement for travelers from Louisiana.
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.
- Massachusetts – Plymouth County and Norfolk county jails have reduced their inmate populations by 20 percent. The reduction follows an April 5 order from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which authorized the release of people being held in county jails pretrial for nonviolent offences, and technical and parole violations.
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, 1,395 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 119 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 8.5 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
- Nineteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Ten of those have since reconvened.
- Twenty-six legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- Alaska – The Alaska legislature adjourned on May 20.
- Arizona – The Arizona House of Representatives reconvened on May 19.
- Kansas – The Kansas legislature reconvened for a single-day veto session on May 21, after which point it was expected to adjourn.
- Wyoming – The Wyoming legislature adjourned its special session on May 16.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
State officials who tested positive for coronavirus
Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann announced that she and her husband had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.