The Daily Brew: One year ago – how state governments responded to COVID

Welcome to the Monday, March 22, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. COVID-19 policy changes – one year ago this week
  2. Register for our election systems briefing on Wednesday 
  3. Three challenge Pittsburgh mayor in Democratic primary

COVID-19 policy changes – one year ago this week

One year ago tomorrow—March 23—Oregon became the fifth state to issue a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic. California was the first state to do so on March 19. At the federal level, President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27. That was the first of now three aid packages Congress passed and presidents Trump or Biden have signed.

Throughout March and April 2020, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Several of those policies are still in place. We’ll be periodically looking back on those events of one year ago. Today let’s explore a sampling of the events that happened one year ago this week.

Stay-at-home orders:

The specifics of each stay-at-home order varied from state to state, but they all closed certain categories of businesses and required people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential. 

  • On March 23, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued Executive Order No. 20-12, directing individuals to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses. Also, the stay-at-home order Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton issued on March 22 went into effect.
  • On March 24, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued stay-at-home orders.

Travel restrictions

  • On March 24, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered travelers flying into Florida from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to self-quarantine for two weeks.
  • On March 26, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order requiring people flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

  • On March 23, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) extended the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, through April 20. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) extended the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, to May 1.
  • On March 24, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that schools would remain closed through April 23. The Hawaii Department of Education announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end April 6, would last through April 30.

Election changes:

  • On March 23, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a law authorizing municipalities to postpone any elections originally scheduled to occur prior to May 30, 2020, to any date on or before June 30, 2020. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that absentee voting in the June 2, 2020, primary election would open on April 23, 2020—40 days before the primary election.
  • On March 24, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) announced plans to conduct all voting in the June 9, 2020, primary election by mail.

Federal government responses:

  • On March 24, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it would use the Defense Production Act to acquire 60,000 coronavirus testing kits.
  • On March 25, the U.S. Senate voted 96-0 to pass the CARES Act, which included individual payments of $1,200 for individuals making up to $75,000 annually.
  • On March 27, the House passed the CARES Act on an unrecorded voice vote and Trump signed it.

For a list of policy changes Ballotpedia covered on other days one year ago this week, click here.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

Register for our election systems briefing on Wednesday 

Last year, Alaska became the second state in the country (along with Maine) to pass ranked-choice voting statewide. Earlier this month, St. Louis became the second city in the U.S. to use approval voting, where voters select any number of candidates they want on their ballots. In June, New York City voters will use ranked-choice voting in mayoral primaries for the first time. 

Voters approved all these changes and more through ballot measures in recent years.

The landscape of election systems has changed quite a bit in the past year. On Wednesday, March 24, Ballot Measures Project Director Josh Altic and staff writer Amée LaTour will hold a briefing on recent ballot measures that have changed how people vote in certain states and cities around the country

They’ll discuss the measures I mentioned in Alaska, New York City, and St. Louis, as well as those in several cities in California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Vermont. They’ll also highlight interesting primaries using new election systems this year. 

The briefing is at 11 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday. And if you can’t attend the presentation live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it on your schedule. I hope you’ll join us!

Register here

Three challenge Pittsburgh mayor in Democratic primary 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will face three challengers—state Rep. Edward Gainey, Tony Moreno, and Michael Thompson—in the city’s Democratic primary on May 18, according to an unofficial list issued by Allegheny County as of March 18. No Republican candidates filed to run. The filing deadline was March 9. 

Peduto was first elected in 2013 with 84% support to Republican Joshua Wander’s 12%. Peduto won the Democratic primary that year with 52% of the vote against three other candidates. In 2017, Peduto won the Democratic primary against two other candidates with 69% of the vote and was unopposed in the general election.

The primary winner will advance to the city’s mayoral general election on Nov. 2. Independent candidates have until Aug. 2 to file. If no independent candidate files, the May 18 Democratic primary winner will be unopposed in the general election.

As of January, 64 mayors in the nation’s 100 largest cities were Democrats, 25 were Republican, and 11 were independent or nonpartisan. Between 2014 and 2020, 68.2% of incumbent mayors sought re-election; of these, 17.6% were defeated in their bids for re-election.

Read on