Coronavirus weekly update: October 9 – October 15, 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 October 8:

  • 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 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: 

  • Thirty-nine states have made modifications to their voting procedures. 
    • Ten states have made voting procedure modifications since Oct. 8.
  • Twenty states have modified their candidate filing requirements. 
    • No states have made candidate filing modifications since Oct. 8.

Updates:

  • Alabama: On Oct. 14, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court order suspending Alabama’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in voters with underlying medical conditions. The panel also reversed the lower court’s order waiving photo identification requirements for voters 65 and older.
  • Alaska: On Oct. 12, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s order suspending the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots.
  • Arizona: On Oct.13, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s order that had extended the state’s voter registration deadline. The Ninth Circuit set Oct. 15 as the new registration deadline.
  • Indiana: On Oct. 13, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked a lower court’s order that had extended the state’s return deadlines for absentee/mail-in ballots. As a result, the original receipt deadline (noon on Nov. 3) was reinstated.
  • Missouri: On Oct. 9, Judge Brian C. Wimes of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri issued an order requiring Missouri election authorities to accept mail-in ballots returned in person. However, on Oct. 10, Wimes suspended his order pending appeal, leaving the requirement that mail-in ballots be returned by mail in place.
  • North Carolina: On Oct. 14, Judge William Osteen of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ordered election officials to enforce the state’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots. Osteen allowed other ballot curing provisions, and the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline (Nov. 12 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day), to stand.
  • Ohio: On Oct. 9, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned a district court’s order directing Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) to allow counties to install absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes at locations other than election board offices. As a result, LaRose’s initial order limiting drop boxes to one site per county was reinstated.
  • Texas: On Oct. 12, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) order restricting the number of absentee/mail-in ballot return locations to one per county.
  • Virginia: On Oct. 14, Judge John A. Gibney of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered that Virginia’s voter registration deadline be extended from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15 after the state’s voter registration system went offline for several hours on Oct. 13 when a fiber cable was accidentally cut.
  • Wisconsin: On Oct. 8, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit voted 2-1 to block a lower court order that had extended registration and absentee/mail-in ballot return deadlines in Wisconsin.

School closures and reopenings

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

The current status of school reopenings is as follows:

  • Washington, D.C., has a district-ordered school closure
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 85,850 students (0.17% of students nationwide)
  • Seven states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.C., N.M., Ore., W.V.) have state-ordered regional school closures, require closures for certain grade levels, or allow hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,366,079 students (18.51% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla.*, Iowa, Texas) have state-ordered in-person instruction
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
    • *Note: Three counties in South Florida are not at the same phase of reopening as the rest of the state and the emergency order to reopen schools does not affect them. 
  • Thirty-nine states have reopenings that vary by school or district
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 31,955,012 students (63.17% of students nationwide)

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 1,034 lawsuits, in all 50 states. dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 362 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Oct. 8, we have added two lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional two court orders and/or settlements. 
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 397 lawsuits, in all 50 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 265 of those lawsuits.

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

  • A.M. v. Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc.: On Oct. 1, Judge Susan Paradise Baxter of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit four student-athletes filed against the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) claiming the group would not allow them to participate in a golf tournament. The plaintiffs alleged that eight days before the tournament, the PIAA “arbitrarily and capriciously reduced the number of qualifiers.” The students argued that “the reduction of numbers has no quantifiable relationship on the spread of Covid-19 as it relates to outdoor activities such as golf.” Plaintiffs sought a court order requiring the PIAA to allow them to participate in the tournament. Baxter denied that request, writing: “It is not the court’s job to decide the better course, but to ensure the one taken was not arbitrary and capricious, or for a wrongful purpose. Although the decision was a painful one for the plaintiffs, it was done with a rational basis and passes muster under the law.” Baxter was appointed to the court by President Donald Trump (R).
  • Georgia Association of Educators v. Kemp: On Oct. 8, the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), the state’s largest teachers’ union, sued Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and other state officials in Fulton County Superior Court. The GAE is seeking a court order that would require the state to issue statewide school reopening plans that are “reasonably calculated to ensure that schools operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and consistent with the guidelines issued by recognized public health authorities such as the CDC.” The GAE alleges that Kemp’s delegation of reopening protocols to local districts constitutes a failure to provide an adequate public education as required under the Georgia Constitution. Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods, who is a defendant in the case, said, “Unlike several states, Georgia schools retain the authority to remain fully virtual instead of being required to offer in-person instruction.”
  • Turturro Law, P.C. v. Cuomo: On Oct. 8, New York officials closed a Brooklyn law firm after an increase in Covid-19 infection rates near its office. The law firm sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The firm, which is in an area deemed a “red-zone” under the state’s “cluster action initiative,” alleges there is “no scientific or other rational basis” for classifying certain parts of the state in this manner. The suit “seeks recovery for deprivations sustained by Plaintiff, and for violations committed by Defendants while acting under color of state law against Plaintiff’s rights and privileges guaranteed by” the U.S. Constitution. In a statement, Richard Azzopardi, a representative for Gov. Cuomo, said, “We’re focused on breaking this cluster and saving lives. Being unhappy is better than being sick or dead.” The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.

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 Oct. 8, four states have modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – On Oct. 13, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Michigan, Virginia, and Ohio had been added to the tristate quarantine list. The list includes 38 states and territories.
  • Ohio – On Wednesday, Oct. 14, the Department of Health updated its travel advisory to include travelers from Indiana. The advisory asks visitors from states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher to self-quarantine for two weeks. The list currently includes South Dakota, Idaho, Wisconsin, Iowa, Wyoming, Kansas, Nevada, and Indiana. 

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 at least 18 cases. 
  • 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.

1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle

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, the Albany Knickerbocker Press reported on the effect the influenza pandemic was having on politics in New York.

The most peculiar and perhaps the most incisive political campaign New York state has ever seen will begin throughout the state today. Hampered by bans on public meetings, forced by the spreading influenza, by an apparent lack of interest in politics, because of the greater interest in the doings of American troops in France, political leaders today will start campaigns upon which hinge the control of the state administration, of the legislature and the political complexion of New York’s delegation in congress, as well as scores of local contests for office.

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 Oct. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency order granting the U.S. Department of Commerce’s request to pause a lower court decision that required the census to continue through Oct. 31 while the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit looks at the case. The order was unsigned, with the exception of a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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 Oct. 15, 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 active stay-at-home orders.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

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

Overview:

  • Eighteen states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since Oct. 8, one state has announced an end date to the state’s eviction moratorium and one state has extended a moratorium.
  • Twenty-five 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:

  • Washington – On Oct. 8, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he would extend the state’s moratorium on evictions through Dec. 31. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 15.
  • Nevada – On Oct. 15, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) allowed the statewide moratorium on evictions to expire.

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.
    • Twenty-five 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.
    • Ninety-six state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty 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 23 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Oct. 8, two members of Congress tested positive for coronavirus, one governor entered self-quarantine, one governor tested negative, and one state representative tested negative. President Donald Trump tested negative for the coronavirus.

Details:

  • On Oct. 11, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced he and his family would self-quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive for coronavirus.
  • On Oct. 9, Connecticut state Rep. Joe Polletta (R) announced he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • On Oct. 12, White House physician Sean Conley announced that President Donald Trump (R) had tested negative for the coronavirus over several days.
  • On Oct. 8, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced he had tested negative for coronavirus after someone in his office tested positive.
  • On Oct. 12, Rep. Mike Bost (R-ILL) announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. 
  • On Oct. 14,  Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. 

State legislation

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

Overview: 

  • To date, 3,432 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 80 additional bills since Oct. 8.
  • Of these, 481 significant bills have been enacted into law, 14 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 23 additional significant bills since Oct. 8 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.)

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 Oct. 8, one court ended restrictions on jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • Georgia – On Oct. 10, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order extending the statewide judicial emergency and allowing jury trials to resume immediately. The judicial emergency was set to expire on Nov. 9. 

Learn more

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About the author

Cory Eucalitto

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

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