Stephanie MacGillivary

Stephanie MacGillivary is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Wisconsin State Legislature Called to Special Session to Discuss Possible Changes to April 7 Election

On April 3, 2020, Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order calling the Wisconsin State Legislature to meet in a special session on April 4, 2020, to discuss possible changes to the April 7, 2020, election. Evers will ask the legislature to consider legislation instituting an all-mail election, in which every voter would receive a ballot by May 19 to be returned by May 26.

Evers’ announcement followed an order from Judge William M. Conley on April 2 extending absentee voting deadlines ahead of Tuesday’s election. Today, Conley ordered officials to withhold the results of the April 7 election until absentee balloting is complete on April 13. The order came at the request of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

To date, 22 states and one territory have implemented changes to their election dates in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

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

Connecticut closes three courthouses due to coronavirus

On April 1, 2020, Connecticut’s Judicial Branch announced the closure of three courthouses in response to the pandemic. Closure of courts in Stamford were prompted by concern about an employee who may be ill with COVID-19. In addition to Stamford, the Judicial Branch announced that the courts in Milford and Middletown would also close until further notice. Court business from Stamford and Milford will transfer to the court in Bridgeport, and Middletown’s business will transfer to the court in New Britain.

Ballotpedia is tracking how state courts are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other recent updates include:

  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended its original order closing all Pennsylvania courts to the public through April 30.
  • The Missouri Supreme Court extended its previous order suspending in-person proceedings through May 1.
  • The Wyoming Supreme Court extended its previous orders suspending in-person and jury trials through May 31

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

Ten states have ordered the release of some inmates in response to the coronavirus

Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting America’s political and civic life. Our coverage includes how federal, state, and local governments are responding, and the effects those responses are having on campaigns and elections.

As of April 1, 10 states have ordered the release of inmates at the state level, 23 states have ordered the release of inmates on the local level, and 17 have not released inmates due to coronavirus.

Some state-level changes have been made by courts. On March 24, for example, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an order that will suspend or commute county jail sentences for low-risk inmates due to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty wrote a memo on March 16 directing local courts to release persons charged with non-capital crimes, so long as they do not pose a danger to the public or are an extreme flight risk.

The governors of Michigan and Illinois issued executive orders allowing local governments to release incarcerated individuals who are vulnerable to the disease and do not pose a risk to the public. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order granting the director of the Colorado Department of Corrections “authority to release people within 180 days of their parole eligibility date, and suspended limits on awarding earned time, to allow for earlier release dates.”

In California, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva released 1,700 people from jail who were convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors and scheduled to be released within 30 days. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the release of at least 650 inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes and serving sentences of less than a year from Rikers Island.

One governor, Texas’ Greg Abbot, has issued an executive order prohibiting inmates accused or previously convicted of violent crimes from being released without paying bail.

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New Jersey Supreme Court
Donald Beatty
Alex Villanueva (California)
Bill de Blasio
Jared Polis
Greg Abbott
J.B. Pritzker
Gretchen Whitmer

California considering inmates for early release to slow coronavirus

On March 31, 2020, California announced that inmates will be granted early release to reduce the prison population in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus within California’s prison system. The inmates being considered for release are currently serving terms for nonviolent crimes and were due to be released within 60 days, and releases will occur over the next few weeks.

Ballotpedia is tracking how state and local governments are responding to the coronavirus pandemic within the prison system.

Other recent updates include:
  • Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on March 29 prohibiting the release of inmates accused or previously convicted of violent crimes without paying bail.
  • Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on March 26 granting the director of the Department of Corrections “authority to release people within 180 days of their parole eligibility date, and suspended limits on awarding earned time, to allow for earlier release dates.”

Majority of states have suspended certain court operations and jury trials

On March 22, the West Virginia Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency and suspended jury trials and all in-person proceedings, with a few exceptions, through April 10, 2020.

West Virginia joined the majority of states whose judicial branches have decided to suspend certain court operations and jury trials due to the coronavirus pandemic. Through March 23, 2020, 33 states had suspended in-person proceedings on a statewide level, including West Virginia, Colorado and Connecticut.

Sixteen states, including Georgia and South Carolina, empowered judges to decide how to handle courtroom restrictions on the local level. In Nevada, while there are no statewide restrictions, courthouses in Carson City and Las Vegas are limiting public access in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

One state, Wyoming, had not issued any orders on the state or local level due to coronavirus.

McNamara appointed Massachusetts Comptroller

On February 11, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker appointed Bill McNamara Comptroller of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, effective Friday, February 21.

McNamara’s appointment comes after Comptroller Andrew Maylor announced that he was resigning to accept a position as Vice President and Chief Business Officer of Merrimack College. Before his appointment, McNamara most recently served as Assistant Secretary for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

In a press release from the governor’s office, Gov. Baker said, “Bill has a depth of experience in several senior leadership roles in the public and private sector that qualify him for this important new post to oversee the Commonwealth’s fiscal policies and operations…His commitment to transparency and reliable governance will be a great benefit to Massachusetts, and I look forward to working with him to ensure continued fiscal accountability and discipline across state government.”

In Massachusetts, the Comptroller of the Commonwealth is a nonpartisan, governor-appointed position responsible for independent oversight of the state’s finances.

The Comptroller of the Commonwealth serves a term coterminous with the governor.

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Bill McNamara
Massachusetts Comptroller of the Commonwealth
Charles D. Baker
Andrew Maylor
Governor of Massachusetts

Romeo resigns from New York State Assembly for County Clerk appointment

On February 6, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Jamie Romeo as Monroe County Clerk. Romeo resigned her seat in the 136th district in the New York State Assembly to take the appointment.

According to New York law: “Filling of vacancies. Except as hereinafter provided, a vacancy in an elective county office, shall be filled by the governor by appointment and for the office of sheriff with the advice and consent of the senate if in session. ”

In New York, the governor fills vacancies in the state legislature through special elections. If the vacancy occurs before April 1, the governor can call a special election. If the state legislature calls a special session after April 1, the governor may call a special election to fill the seat. The person elected to fill the vacancy serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. There are currently three open seats in the New York State Assembly.

As of Feb. 11, Governor Cuomo’s office had yet to announce if a special election will take place to replace Romeo.

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Mahoney Appointed Alaska Commissioner of Revenue

On February 4, 2020, Lucinda Mahoney was appointed commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Revenue by Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R).

Mahoney’s appointment comes after Bruce Tangeman resigned from the position in November of 2019 over differences with the governor. In his resignation letter, Tangeman stated, “The message you campaigned on and continue to stress was based on a math equation that would lead us toward fiscal responsibility. It has become apparent that the appetite by many for the level of budget reductions required to balance this math equation will be difficult to realize.” Tangeman commended Governor Dunleavy on the challenges he has undertaken in the state and said he believes that the governor has the best of intentions for Alaska’s future.

In Alaska, the governor is responsible for filling revenue commissioner vacancies by appointment, subject to legislative confirmation.

Mahoney is the 22nd commissioner of Alaska’s department of revenue. As principal executive officer, Mahoney is responsible for providing general supervision and directing the activities of the department. Alaska’s Department of Revenue enforces the tax laws of the state, registers cattle brands, manages the power development fund, and collects, invests and manages revenue.

Mahoney’s professional experience includes working as a business consulting company owner, as well as working for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and ARCO.

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