Coronavirus weekly update: September 4 – September 10, 2020

Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics: Coronavirus Weekly Updates
The Coronavirus Weekly Update summarizes major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections. Today, you will find updates on the following topics, with comparisons to our previous edition released on Sept. 3:

  • Election changes
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies
  • Travel restrictions
  • Ballot measure changes
  • 1918 story
  • Federal responses
  • Stay-at-home orders
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials
  • State legislation
  • State legislative sessions
  • State courts


For daily news on state reopening plans and which industries and activities are permitted across the country, subscribe to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.
Election changes

Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections. 
    • No states have postponed elections since Sept. 3.
  • Nineteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements. 
    • No states have made candidate filing modifications since Sept. 3.
  • Forty states have made modifications to their voting procedures. 
    • Two states have made voting procedure modifications since Sept. 3.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • No state parties have made modifications to party events since Sept. 3.

Details:

  • Tennessee: On Sept. 9, Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee temporarily suspended a Tennessee law requiring first-time voters to show identification at an election office before voting.
  • Virginia: On Sept. 4, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed into law legislation providing for the use of drop-boxes to return absentee/mail-in ballots. The legislation also provided for prepaid return postage.

School closures and reopenings

Read more: School reopenings in the 2020-2021 academic year after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Overview:

In March and April, 48 states closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Those states accounted for 99.4% of the nation’s 50.6 million public school students. Montana and Wyoming did not end in-person instruction for the year. Montana schools were allowed to reopen on May 7 and Wyoming schools were allowed to reopen on May 15.

The current status of school reopenings is as follows:

  • Four states (N.M., R.I., Vt., W.V.) have a state-ordered school closure
  • Two states (Calif., Hawaii) have a state-ordered regional school closure
  • Three states (Del., N.C., Va.) are open for hybrid or remote instruction only
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Mo., Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Thirty-six states have reopenings that vary by school or district

Details:

  • Connecticut – On Sept. 8, several of the state’s largest school districts reopened to in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were allowed to reopen beginning Aug. 31, but many districts delayed their start until after Labor Day.
  • Maryland – On Sept. 8, public schools were allowed to reopen virtually. How long virtual instruction will last varies by district.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 894 lawsuits, spanning all 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 319 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Sept. 3, we have added 15 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked one additional court order and/or settlement. 
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 227 lawsuits, in 46 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 143 of those lawsuits.

Here are two recent lawsuits that have either garnered significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups.

  • Brown v. Azar: On Sept. 8, a landlord filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) nationwide eviction moratorium. The moratorium temporarily halts residential evictions for most renters in order “to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.” Plaintiff Rick Brown alleges the CDC moratorium “would abrogate the right to access the courts, violate limits on the Supremacy Clause, implicate the nondelegation doctrine, and traduce anti-commandeering principles.” Brown says the CDC unconstitutionally “displaces inherent state authority over residential evictions” and “impermissibly commandeers state courts and state officers” to enforce the emergency moratorium. The CDC has not commented publicly on the lawsuit, which has been assigned to Judge J.P. Boulee, an appointee of President Donald Trump (R).
  • Parker v. Wolf: On Sept. 3, two Pennsylvania couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Gov. Tom Wolf (D), challenging Wolf’s COVID-19 contact tracing program and mask mandate. Pennsylvania’s mask mandate, which requires that people wear face coverings in public when they are unable to maintain a distance of six feet from others, and the contact tracing program, were both implemented through executive action. In their complaint, the plaintiffs object to “Wolf’s unilateral exercise of power,” alleging he “has assumed the power to lord over the lives of Pennsylvanians like a king, mandating restrictions that deprive citizens, including plaintiffs, of their fundamental liberties.” The plaintiffs allege that Wolf’s actions violate their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also allege Wolf’s actions violate the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the federal government to guarantee that the states maintain a republican form of government. Wolf’s office has not commented publicly on the lawsuit. The case is assigned to Chief Judge John E. Jones III, an appointee of President George W. Bush (R).

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 25 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 14 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since Sept. 3, four states have modified their travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • New Mexico – On Sept. 3, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that beginning Sept. 4, out-of-state travelers from states with a 5% positivity rate or greater or a new case rate greater than 80 per 1 million residents would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Additionally, travelers from any state can avoid the quarantine requirement by presenting a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before or after entry into the state. Travelers waiting for a test result must still self-quarantine until the results come back.
  • Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – On Sept. 8, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia had been added to the joint travel advisory list. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were removed from the list.

Ballot measure changes

Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • At least 19 lawsuits were filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines. 
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in 18 cases, with appeals and motions for stays pending in some.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 27 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering. 
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action. 
  • At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle
The United States held midterm elections as scheduled during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. More than 50 million people perished from the disease worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Each week, 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 Oct. 20, 1918, The Columbus Evening Dispatch looked at how the influenza pandemic was hobbling political campaigns. 

Politics, both state and local, are the latest activities to be influenced by the influenza epidemic. State committees of both the major parties have cancelled practically all campaign speaking arrangements made for the next week and since the indications are that their action will be duplicated for the week following, the probabilities are that the political campaign of this fall, which was to reach maximum volume after the Liberty Loan campaign ended Saturday night, will be the most uneventful of the state’s history. 

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.​​​​

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Sept. 9, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ended its coronavirus pandemic task force. An official for the agency, which has helped distribute aid used to combat the coronavirus pandemic in other countries, said other bureaus and divisions would assume the task force’s responsibilities.
  • Sept. 10 was the deadline for states to apply for additional unemployment insurance funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. President Donald Trump (R) authorized FEMA to use disaster relief funds to supplement state unemployment insurance programs. As of Sept. 10, every state but South Dakota had applied to the program. 

State stay-at-home orders

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

As of Sept. 10, stay-at-home orders have ended in 41 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 22 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state supreme court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Seven states never issued stay-at-home orders.

California and New Mexico, both of which have a Democratic governor, are the only remaining states with an active stay-at-home order.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Twenty states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since Sept. 3, one state ended a moratorium on evictions.
  • Twenty-three states have ended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • California has current local moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • Seven states did not issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on the state or local level.

Details:

  • Virginia – The Virginia Supreme Court declined to grant Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) request to extend the statewide moratorium on evictions, which expired Sept. 7. 

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • One federal official has died of COVID-19.
    • Thirteen members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-three federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Eighty-one state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Seventy-seven state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 22 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 27 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Sept. 3, a state senator and representative from Kentucky tested positive for coronavirus.

Details:

  • Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott (D), who represents District 41, announced on Sept. 6 she had tested positive for coronavirus. 
  • Kentucky state Sen. Gerald Neal, who represents District 33, announced on Sept. 8 he tested positive for coronavirus.

State legislation

Read more: State laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • To date, 3,089 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 24 additional bills since Sept. 3.
  • Of these, 409 significant bills have been enacted into law, 13 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business. 
    • We have tracked four additional significant bills since Sept. 3 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.)

State legislative session changes

Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Four state legislatures have suspended their sessions. All four of those have since reconvened. 
  • Forty-one legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
    • One legislature has adjourned since Sept. 3.   
  • Four state legislatures are in regular session. 
  • One state legislature is in special session. 

Details:

  • North Carolina – The North Carolina legislature adjourned on Sept. 3

State court changes

Read more: State court closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide
    • Since Sept. 3, one court has extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • New York – A limited number of jury trials were slated to begin in parts of the state on Wednesday, Sept. 9, as part of a pilot program. The program, which was announced by Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals in New York, calls for administrative and supervising judges to release daily reports on how the jury trials are going. 
  • Delaware – On Sept. 4, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. extended the judicial emergency through Oct. 5, and announced that the judiciary would move into a modified Phase 3 of reopening on that date. Under the modified Phase 3 plan, the Delaware Supreme Court will permit jury trials to resume and allow courts to increase capacity from 50% to 75%.

Learn more

Click here to learn more.




About the author

Cory Eucalitto

Cory Eucalitto is a managing editor at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Bitnami