Voters to decide state executive, legislative, and judicial primaries in Oregon

The statewide primary election for Oregon is on May 19, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on March 10. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:
• Secretary of State
• Treasurer
• Attorney General
• 16 seats in the Oregon State Senate
• All 60 seats in the Oregon House of Representatives
• Three Oregon Supreme Court justices
• Four Oregon Court of Appeals justices
• Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in Portland and Multnomah County.

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Oregon exclusively uses a vote-by-mail system. Voters may return their ballots to the office of the county clerk by mail or in person. Because of this system, there is no need for explicit absentee or early voting procedures.

Oregon’s primary is the 10th statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primaries will be held on June 2 in the following states:
• Idaho
• Indiana
• Iowa
• Maryland
• Montana
• New Mexico
• Pennsylvania
• South Dakota

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New Mexico governor issues modified stay-at-home order, allows most retail to reopen May 16

On May 14, 2020, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced during a news conference that the state’s stay-at-home order would be extended through May 31 but most retailers and places of worship would be allowed to reopen on May 16.

That day, smaller retailers, offices, and call centers can reopen at 25 percent capacity, big box stores and larger retailers may open at 20 percent capacity, and places of worship can reopen at 10 percent capacity. Under the order, everyone in the state is required to wear face masks in public spaces.

Since May 1, the state has been in the preparation phase of the state’s reopening plan.

The new order does not apply to the northwest corner of the state where community spread is still high. Movie theaters, concert halls, in-restaurant dining, indoor malls, salons, and gyms remain closed under the order.

As of May 14, stay-at-home orders have ended in 18 states. Governors ended stay-at-home orders in 17 states—13 Republican governors and five Democratic governors. Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) administration overstepped its authority in extending that state’s stay-at-home order. Of the 25 states with stay-at-home orders in place, six have Republican governors and 19 have Democratic governors.

Although the names of the orders—shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, stay home, stay safe—vary from state to state, they include at least two common elements: the closure of nonessential businesses and requesting all residents to stay home except for essential trips.

State supreme court strikes down Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order

On May 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in 4-3 ruling, struck down the state’s stay-at-home order. The court found that Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm overstepped her authority when she extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 26 on behalf of Gov. Tony Evers (D). This marks the first instance of a statewide stay-at-home order being struck down by a court of last resort.

The suit was brought by the state legislature. Republican lawmakers had asked the court to strike down the stay-at-home order but stay the decision by several days in order to give them and the governor time to develop a replacement plan. The court declined to do this, and restrictions imposed on individuals and businesses were immediately lifted.

Under the most recent stay-at-home order, individuals had been directed to remain at home, with exceptions made for performing essential and other permitted activities. The most recent order had allowed retail businesses to offer curbside pick-up and delivery services and golf courses and other outdoor recreation spaces to reopen, subject to social distancing protocols.

Idaho state representative dies

Idaho State Representative Thyra Stevenson (R)—who represented District 6A—died on May 11. She had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack May 4. Stevenson held her district’s seat from 2012 to 2014 and from 2016 until her death.

Stevenson was running for re-election to a fourth term in the state House against Aaron von Ehlinger. Because she died after the ballot was finalized, Stevenson’s name will still appear on the Republican primary ballot. No Democratic candidates filed to run in this district.

Idaho’s primary elections were originally scheduled to take place on May 19. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Gov. Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that the election would take place entirely by mail. Under this revised procedure, mail-in ballots must be returned by June 2.

Idaho state law requires the governor to fill vacancies in the state legislature by appointment. The Republican committee in the 6th District has 15 days from the date on which the vacancy occurred—May 26—to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor. The governor is then responsible for selecting a new representative from the list. Stevenson’s seat is the only current vacancy in the majority-Republican state House.

Alaska Supreme Court rules Gov. Mike Dunleavy recall can proceed

The Alaska Supreme Court on May 8 affirmed a superior court ruling that the recall effort against Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) can move forward. In November 2019, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) determined that the recall failed to meet any of the grounds for recall. In Alaska, a recall petition has to meet one of the following grounds to make the ballot: lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, or corruption. The state Division of Elections rejected the recall petition citing Clarkson’s legal opinion. The Recall Dunleavy group appealed Clarkson’s decision, and in January 2020, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth rejected Clarkson’s ruling. The state appealed Aarseth’s ruling to the supreme court.

In response to the court’s decision to reverse his ruling, Clarkson said, “The Court ignored Alaska’s constitutional history and has effectively rewritten our Constitution and statutes to adopt no-cause political recall. By the Court’s decision, from this point forward any elected official will be subject to recall for virtually any reason.” Recall Dunleavy campaign manager Claire Pywell said about the ruling, “We’ve been confident in these grounds since the beginning, but it is a huge win for all of our supporters, all of the folks who have been so committed.”

Supporters will need to gather 71,252 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. According to Alaska recall law, if a vote to recall Dunleavy is approved, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) would become governor.

Pywell said that the recall group believes that it must gather the necessary signatures by July 3 to make the November 2020 ballot. As of May 4, 2020, the Recall Dunleavy website said the group had collected 34,802 signatures. Due to coronavirus concerns, the recall campaign began to collect signatures by mail on March 20, 2020.

Recall supporters have criticized Dunleavy over four specific actions, including: authorizing state funds to be used for partisan advertisements, failing to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within the required statutory timeframe, violating separation-of-powers by improperly using the line-item veto, and accounting errors in budget vetoes, which the recall effort alleges would have cost the state millions in Medicare funding.

Alaska is under a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 13-7 margin. Although Republicans also won a majority in the state House in the 2018 elections, a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (undeclared) as the state House’s speaker on February 14, 2019. This resulted in the parties having split control of key leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won the governor’s office in 2018.

Four gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

One Kansas Supreme Court justice faces retention election in November

One Kansas Supreme Court justice, Eric Rosen, will face a retention election on November 3, 2020. He was appointed by a Democratic governor.

Currently, two justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor while four were appointed by a Democratic governor.

The governor appoints the seven justices of the supreme court through a bar-controlled nominating commission. The governor selects four non-lawyer members while members of the Kansas State Bar Association elect five lawyer members. Four of the lawyer members are elected by bar members in each congressional district while the fifth is elected by bar members statewide.

When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission must nominate individuals to fill the empty seat. The commission nominates potential justices and then interviews the nominees publicly. Next, a majority of the commission decides privately on the most qualified candidates to recommend to the governor for appointment. Following its decision, the commission sends the governor a list of three names from which he must make his selection. The appointed justice then faces a retention election in the next statewide general election taking place at least 12 months after the justice assumed office and each subsequent six years.

Louisiana to lift stay-at-home order, reopen select businesses on May 15

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) unveiled the “Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana” reopening plan, the first phase of which is set to take effect on May 15, 2020. Under the plan, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity at that time: gyms and fitness centers; barber shops and hair/nail salons; gaming establishments; theaters; racetracks (no spectators); museums, zoos, and aquariums (no tactile exhibits); and bars and breweries with food permits.

Edwards also announced that he would not renew the stay-at-home order, which expires May 15. Individuals, particularly those belonging to high-risk groups, will still be encouraged to stay home. Individuals who do go out in public will be encouraged to wear facial coverings, practice good hygiene, and maintain six feet of distance from others. For businesses, employees who interact with the public must wear facial coverings and enforce social distancing guidelines. Gaming establishments must register and obtain approval before reopening. No other business owners will be required to do so.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to self-quarantine after staff member tests positive for coronavirus

On May, 11, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced that he and members of his office would self-quarantine after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 last week. All senior members of Pritzker’s staff have tested negative for the virus. Pritzker received a test Sunday, May 10, which also came back negative.
Ballotpedia tracks politicians and government officials who have been diagnosed or tested for coronavirus, or become quarantined.
As of May 11, we have tracked:
• Six federal officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 38 federal officials quarantined
• Thirty state officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 67 state officials quarantined

California to send mail-in ballots automatically to all registered voters in the general election

On May 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order directing county election officials to deliver mail-in ballots automatically to all registered voters in the November 3, 2020, general election. Newsom announced that in-person voting locations would also be available.

Under normal circumstances, California allows any registered voter to cast a ballot by mail, but the voter must first request a mail-in ballot. Under Newsom’s order, a voter will not have to take any action in order to receive a mail-in ballot.

To date, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, five states have chosen to send mail-in ballots automatically to all voters in certain elections. California is the first to extend the practice to November’s general election.

Montana voters receive primary ballots by mail on May 8

Ballots for Montana’s June 2 statewide primary elections will be mailed to voters beginning on May 8.

On March 25, Governor Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing, but not requiring, counties to conduct the upcoming primary elections entirely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. On April 6, KTVH reported that all of Montana’s 56 counties opted to conduct their primary elections entirely by mail with ballots being sent out on May 8.

Voters can return completed ballots in the mail or in-person at their respective county election offices. All ballots must be received by election officials before 8:00 pm on June 2.

Primary elections in Montana are expected to be competitive this year with open races for U.S. House, attorney general, secretary of state, and governor. In 2016, President Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in Montana 56.5-35.9%.

Montana has had a Democratic governor since 2005 and is one of 14 states with a divided government. Democrats hold the governorship and Republicans control both the state House of Representatives and state Senate. Montana is also one of 14 states with divided triplex control, with a Democratic governor, a Republican attorney general, and a Republican secretary of state.

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Mike Cooney, the current lieutenant governor, is facing businesswoman Whitney Williams. On the Republican side, Attorney General Tim Fox, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, and State Sen. Al Olszewski are vying for the nomination. Gianforte was the 2016 Republican gubernatorial candidate. Incumbent Gov. Bullock defeated Gianforte 50.2-46.4% in that election.

There is a 150% increase in the number of state legislative incumbents facing primary challenges this year. In 2018, 10 incumbent legislators faced contested primaries. In 2020, 25 incumbents are facing primaries. In total, there will be 55 state legislative primaries this year. Republicans currently control both the House (57-42) and Senate (30-20).

Montana’s state legislative lines will be redrawn following the 2020 Census. Montana is one of six states where state legislative redistricting is handled by an independent commission rather than the legislature. The majority and minority leaders of both chambers select one member each. Those four members then agree upon a fifth member to serve as the chair. No public officials may serve on the commission.

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