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 June 2, 2020.
State stay-at-home orders
- As of June 2, stay-at-home orders have ended in 35 states. Eighteen of those states have Republican governors and 17 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Of the eight states with active stay-at-home orders, seven have Democratic governors and one has a Republican governor.
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 7, 1918, The Pioneer in Minnesota published an article titled, “Counting of Ballots Tedious Operation.” The article discussed how Bemidji, Minnesota’s precinct counting was a slow process because of the number of candidates and ballots.
“Bemidji’s precinct count dragged throughout election night and far into the next day. Some of the [precincts] started the count on the state ticket and some on the county. The polls closed at 9 o’clock and the lunch hour also occupied its space of time. It was a slow process on account of the number of candidates and state and county ballots.
The county precincts commenced to report during the morning following the election and over half the county was in by the evening, with more following today, a hard task being well done…The most distressing incident of the county election was that Editor ‘Bill’ Noonan of the Baudette Region was confined to his room with the Spanish ‘flu.’ Election time and election day is Editor Noonan’s greatest pastime.”
Lawsuits about state actions and policies
- To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 98 lawsuits, spanning 34 states, relating to governmental actions undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 34 of those lawsuits.
- Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 90 lawsuits, spanning 32 states, dealing with the administration of elections in light of the pandemic. Orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 39 of those lawsuits.
- Curtin v. Virginia State Board of Elections – On May 29, Judge Rossie Alston, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, rejected a challenge to Virginia’s temporary expansion of absentee voting eligibility in the state’s May and June elections. The state department of elections had advised local registrars that all voters could cite disability or illness as their reason for requesting absentee ballots, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. The plaintiffs alleged that state officials had exceeded their authority in doing this and that such expansion would increase the number of votes cast unlawfully, thereby diluting the impact of votes cast lawfully. The plaintiffs requested that the court issue a preliminary injunction barring officials from implementing the policy. Alston rejected the motion: “Undermining belief in the purity of the electoral process, whether by inappropriately facilitating the participation of some or by diluting the participation of others, inherently brings us to question the sanctity of the democratic process itself. The bottom-line here is that while the basis of Plaintiffs’ Complaint may be well-founded, the Court is constrained at this time from remedying these constitutional grievances.”
- Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
- Sixteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
- Twenty-eight states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in 19 states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
- Pennsylvania – On June 1, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued an executive order extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline for the June 2 primary to 5:00 p.m. on June 9 (with a postmark deadline of June 2) in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
Ballot measure changes
- Ballotpedia has tracked 22 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures.
- At least 12 lawsuits were filed in ten different states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines. Rulings or settlements have been issued for nine.
- 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.
- Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that he intended to reopen schools for in-person instruction this fall. DeWine said that the state is still working to develop health guidelines for schools and that districts would be given the flexibility to determine their start date.
- Of the 21 executive orders issued by governors or state agencies placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors, at least nine have been rescinded.
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 Supreme Court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings through June 14.
- Vermont – Beginning June 1, courts in Vermont expanded operations to allow for more remote hearings and some in-person hearings. Visitors to courthouses will need to wear masks and answer health-related screening questions before coming inside. Jury trials remain on hold until September.
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.
- Florida – Gov. Rick DeSantis (R) extended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in the state through July 1.
State legislative responses
- To date, 1,698 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Of these, 143 significant bills have been enacted into law, about 8.4 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
- Sixteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions. Elevent 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.