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 22, 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 Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.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 22, stay-at-home orders have ended in 28 states. Eighteen of those states have Republican governors and 10 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Of the 15 states with active stay-at-home orders, one has a Republican governor and 14 have Democratic governors.
- North Carolina – Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) stay-at-home order expired on May 22 at 5:00 p.m. It was replaced by a safer-at-home order that remains in effect through June 26. The state entered Phase Two of North Carolina’s reopening plan.
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 April 7, 2020, CBS News published an article titled, “Voting during a pandemic? Here’s what happened in 1918.” The article discussed what it was like to vote during the Influenza pandemic.
“In early March, while the remaining Democratic presidential contenders were sprinting across the country in search of primary victories, the COVID-19 pandemic was taking its own destructive path through the nation. States with upcoming primaries were forced by the novel virus to reconsider a question from a century ago about how to keep the public safe at the ballot box.
The last time a health emergency so imperiled American politics was in 1918, when the Spanish flu killed 675,000 Americans and was dubbed the “mother of all pandemics.” The flu peaked in October and November that year, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, just days before the midterm elections on November 5.”
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 66 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.
- Rock House Fitness, Inc. v. Acton: On May 20, 2020, Judge Eugene A. Lucci, of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Rock House Fitness, Inc. v. Acton, barring government officials at the state and local levels from imposing penalties against gyms and fitness centers that refused to comply with a state order requiring the closure of such facilities. The suit was brought by 35 Ohio gyms and fitness centers, which argued that the stay-at-home order issued by Amy Acton, the state health director, violated multiple provisions of the Ohio constitution.
- Lucci sided with the plaintiffs and granted their request for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the closure order. Lucci prohibited officials from closing or otherwise penalizing gyms that reopened, provided they “operate in compliance with all applicable safety regulations, whether those in the state’s order, the state’s supplemental guidelines governing businesses like those of the plaintiffs in this case, or the Lake County General Health District.”
- Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Governor Mike DeWine (R), said DeWine would consult with Attorney General Dave Yost (R) on the possibility of an appeal.
- 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.
- Connecticut – Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order extending absentee voting eligibility to all registered voters in the August 11 primary if there is no “federally approved and widely available vaccine for prevention of COVID-19” at the time voters submit their absentee ballot requests.
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.
- Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that schools could reopen beginning June 1. Schools that reopen will be subject to social distancing and sanitation guidelines.
- Of the 20 executive orders issued by governors or state agencies placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors, at least seven have been rescinded.
- Kentucky – The travel restrictions requiring out-of-state travelers staying in the state longer than 24 hours to self-quarantine expired.
- West Virginia – As part of the state’s reopening plan, the requirement that out-of-state travelers self-quarantine was lifted on May 21.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Arizona – The Arizona Supreme Court extended its suspension of jury trials through June 15. The court also issued Health Screening Protocols for judicial and court staff and the public. Protocols include daily wellness checks for staff and asking the public to self-screen. The court also ordered presiding judges of the superior court to provide public access to civil and criminal court proceedings via video or phone, to the extent that it is logistically possible, starting July 1.
- Florida – The Florida Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through July 1, with the exception of the Remote Civil Jury Pilot Program.
- New Hampshire – The New Hampshire Supreme Court extended restrictions in circuit courts, superior courts, and the Supreme Court on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through June 15.
- North Carolina – The North Carolina Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and suspension of jury trials through June 20.
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.
- Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) modified his May 7 executive order suspending evictions and foreclosures in the state through July 10. An amendment attached to the order specified that it only applies to evictions and foreclosures enacted due to lack of payment or due to a tenant overstaying their lease.
State legislative responses
- To date, 1,483 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 129 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
- Eighteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Nine of those have since reconvened.
- Twenty-seven legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- Kansas – The Kansas legislature adjourned on May 21.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
Federal politicians who self-quarantined for coronavirus
- Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fl.) announced she was self-quarantining after visiting a nursing home on behalf of constituents. Multiple individuals at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19. Murcarsel-Powell said she would remain quarantined until she gets her test results back and her doctor tells her she can leave the house. She said she was not experiencing any symptoms.