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 26, 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 Eight of those orders were set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 had announced end dates.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 26, 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.
- Delaware – Gov. John Carney (D) confirmed that he would not extend the state’s stay-at-home order beyond its May 31 end date.
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 2, 1918, the Deseret Evening News published an article titled, “Precautions Will Be Taken To Protect Voters From ‘Flu’.” The article discussed how voters would be protected at the polls from the influenza epidemic.
“Precautions will be taken at the general election Tuesday to prevent any danger from the Spanish Influenza, it was learned today. In some instances where sufficient fresh air is not circulating through the houses where balloting is to take place, tents will be erected in the yard, and in some isolated cases church chapels may be used.
Thomas Homer, county clerk, announced this morning that he would complete an investigation of the various districts by tonight, and that any changes in polling places would be announced tomorrow or Monday.”
- On May 24, the White House announced it had accelerated a proclamation prohibiting travelers from Brazil from entering the United States, moving the date the restrictions take effect from Thursday, May 28, to Tuesday, May 26 at midnight. The proclamation prohibits foreign travelers who have been in Brazil in the last 14 days from entering the United States.
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 83 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 69 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 28 of those lawsuits.
- Twenty states and one territory have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Sixteen 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.
- South Carolina – Judge J. Michelle Childs, of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee ballots in the June 9 primary and subsequent runoff elections. The plaintiffs in the suit had also asked for a suspension of the requirement that completed ballots be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, provided they were postmarked on or before June 9. Childs denied that request.
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 12 lawsuits were filed seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines. Rulings or settlements have been issued for seven.
- 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.
- Arkansas – U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes issued a preliminary injunction waiving the requirement that petition circulators physically witness signatures, thereby allowing sponsors of the Arkansas Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative to collect remote petition signatures. The judge declined to allow electronic signatures and declined to push back the signature deadline of July 3.
- Michigan – Fair and Equal Michigan, the group behind the Michigan LGBTQ Nondiscrimination in State Civil Rights Law Initiative, filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Court of Claims to reduce the signature requirement to qualify its measure for the ballot from 340,042 valid signatures to 127,518 valid signatures.
- Ohio – On May 26, a panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stayed a previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus that eased signature requirements for ballot initiatives. Judge Sargus had ordered Ohio to accept electronic signatures from ballot measure campaigns and extend the signature deadline from July 1 to July 31. Due to the stay, Judge Sargus’ ruling will not be in effect during the appeal.
- 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 five have been rescinded.
State court changes
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Supreme Court is requiring courts to submit plans to protect participants and observers before they can resume in-person hearings and jury trials, which have been suspended since March. Plans will need to be approved by the chief judge of each judicial administrative district.
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.
- Ohio – The Supreme Court of the United States declined to stay an order issued by U.S. District Judge James Gwin that would require the government to move hundreds of at-risk inmates from a federal prison. The Department of Justice appealed Gwin’s order, first to the Sixth Circuit (who declined to act) and then to the Supreme Court. The court’s statement noted that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch would have granted the administration’s request.
Eviction and foreclosure policies
- Forty-one states have implemented policies related to evictions or foreclosures on either the state or local level.
- Wisconsin – The moratorium on evictions and foreclosures issued by Gov. Tony Evers (D) was set to expire May 26, allowing landlords and banks to begin eviction and foreclosure procedures.
State legislative responses
- To date, 1,516 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 133 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 9 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
State legislative session changes
- Sixteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Ten of those have since reconvened.
- Twenty-nine legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Five state legislatures are in regular session.
- Colorado – The Colorado legislature resumed its session on May 26.
- Delaware – The Delaware legislature resumed its session on May 26.
- New York – The New York legislature resumed its session on May 26.
- Rhode Island – The Rhode Island legislature has extended its suspension through May 29.