COVID-19 one year ago this week

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Let’s continue our Monday series highlighting policy changes and events related to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago this week. Here is a sampling of coronavirus-related policy changes and events that happened one year ago this week.

  • Federal government responses:
    • On May 19, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to remove regulatory barriers to economic activity as part of a coronavirus pandemic recovery effort.
  • Election changes:
    • On May 19, Judge Samuel Frederick Biery of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ordered that all eligible Texas voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay against Biery’s order later the same day.
    • On May 20, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued an executive order extending absentee voting eligibility to any registered voter in the August 11 primary if there is no “federally approved and widely available vaccine for prevention of COVID-19” at the time he or she requests an absentee ballot.
  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • On May 20, Gov. Lamont allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire, beginning the first phase of a four-phase reopening plan. The first phase allowed some businesses—like offices and retail stores—to reopen with restrictions.
    • On May 22, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) replaced the statewide stay-at-home order with a “Safer at Home” order. The order allowed restaurants to open to indoor dining at 50% capacity but kept bars and playgrounds closed.
  • Travel restrictions
    • On May 21, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ended the requirement that out-of-state travelers quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the state. Abbott first issued the travel restriction on March 26.

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New York Legislature refers two voting policy constitutional amendments to November ballot

Last Monday, May 11, the New York Legislature referred two voting policy constitutional amendments to this year’s November 2 ballot. The amendments would authorize no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration.

Currently, the state constitution requires voters to be absent from their county of residence, ill, or physically disabled to vote with an absentee ballot. It also requires that persons must register to vote at least ten days before an election, thus prohibiting same-day voter registration.

To refer constitutional amendments to the ballot, the New York Legislature must approve them by a simple majority vote in each chamber during two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. Both of the constitutional amendments were previously approved in 2019. The state Senate approved the amendments in January 2021, and the state Assembly approved them on May 11.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C. currently allow for same-day voter registration, including neighboring Connecticut and Vermont. Of the twenty states, 13 have Democratic governors and seven have Republican governors. New York is one of 16 states that require an excuse to receive an absentee ballot. Thirty-four states and D.C. provide for no-excuse absentee voting (or provide every voter with a mail-in ballot), meaning any voter can apply to receive an absentee ballot and vote by mail. 

Since 1995, an average of 1.5 constitutional amendments appeared on odd-year ballots in New York. To read more about 2021 ballot measures in New York, click the link below.

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Monday trivia

Last week, we wrote about our recent bond measures analysis, which stretched back to 2000. One fascinating find from this was that bond measure approval rates were the highest in Democratic trifectas, rather than Republican trifectas or states with divided governments.

Approximately how much money in statewide bond measures was authorized by voters between 2000 and 2020?

A. $500 billion

B. $350 billion

C. $250 billion

D. $100 billion