TagState executive

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 11 (March 25, 2020)

This week: End Citizens United endorses Ossoff, Warnock for Senate seats in GA, Brady PAC endorses Hegar in Senate runoff in TX, and the election dates changed in response to the coronavirus.

Election date changes

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted several states and localities to change election dates and administrative procedures. Here are the changes affecting party primaries right now:

  • Alabama: Primary runoff postponed to July 14
  • Alaska: In-person voting in Democratic presidential preference primary canceled; vote-by-mail deadline extended to April 10
  • Connecticut: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Delaware: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Georgia: Presidential preference primary postponed to May 19
  • Indiana: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Kentucky: Primary postponed to June 23
  • Louisiana: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 20
  • Maryland: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Mississippi: Republican primary runoff election for the state’s 2nd Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • North Carolina: Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • Ohio: In-person primary voting postponed to June 2
  • Puerto Rico: Democratic presidential preference primary postponed to April 26
  • Rhode Island: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Texas: Primary runoff elections postponed to July 14

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“If Sanders drops out, as mainstream media and centrist liberals are urging him to do, Biden and the establishment won’t budge an inch, and a generation of socialists and progressives is demoralized. If Sanders stays in, his campaign is severely limited without the ability to hold big rallies or canvasses because of the pandemic, in addition to the many other enormous hurdles he faces.

There is another option, though: stay in the race, but make a wholesale transition from campaigning for the nomination to campaigning for Bernie’s coronavirus policy — not just redirecting some donations to charity or sending text messages to encourage social distancing, but transforming the entire organizational apparatus of the Bernie campaign into a virus-fighting machine.

… Bernie should use the considerable leverage he has right now to outflank the suddenly invisible Joe Biden to advocate for a more aggressive approach.”

Benjamin Y. Fong, Jacobin, March 24, 2020

“Could Biden become a different president than we imagined? He well might, if he can rise to the occasion.

When I say ‘different,’ I’m referring to one of the main reasons I was skeptical about Biden’s candidacy: his lack of policy ambition. … 

But if he takes office in the midst of a crisis, the calculations could change. There’s a good chance that the stimulus measures we take now will be insufficient — so he’ll be under pressure to pass new stimulus, which could well include some version of the Green New Deal. This public health crisis will almost certainly have been a disaster for our health-care system, which will give passing health-care reform new urgency. …

And though we all hope the public health crisis and the economic crisis are over as quickly as possible, if there’s a silver lining here, it may be that they’ll make Biden, should he win, a better and bigger president than he otherwise would have been. Let’s hope so.”

Paul Waldman, The Washington Post, March 19, 2020

U.S. Congress

End Citizens United endorses Ossoff, Warnock for Senate seats in GA

End Citizens United endorsed Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s May 19 regular Senate Democratic primary and Raphael Warnock in the Nov. 3 all-party special election.

Ossoff faced Karen Handel (R) in the 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District—the most expensive House race in history. Handel defeated Ossoff 51.8-48.2%.

Seven candidates are running in the May 19 Democratic primary, including business executive Sarah Riggs Amico and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. The winner will face incumbent David Perdue (R). Three forecasters rate the general election Likely or Lean Republican.

End Citizens United’s endorsement of Warnock followed those from other national groups including, as we reported earlier, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He is a pastor and was chairman of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has also endorsed him, founded.

Twenty-one candidates are running in the all-party special election—six Republicans, eight Democrats, five independents, a Green Party candidate, and a Libertarian. 

Former Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned in December. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Kelly Loeffler (R) to the seat. She is running in the special election. 

Three forecasters rate the election either Lean or Likely Republican.

Two candidates remain in NY-24 Democratic primary

Roger Misso dropped out of the Democratic primary for New York’s 24th Congressional District, leaving a contest between Dana Balter and Francis Conole. 

The 24th includes parts of Cayuga, Onondaga, Oswego, and Wayne counties. The Finger Lakes Times reported, “Wayne is not endorsing in the primary, while Onondaga and Cayuga have endorsed Conole. Balter won the endorsement of Oswego County Democrats.”

Balter challenged 24th District incumbent John Katko (R) in 2018, losing 47.4% to 52.6%. Conole is a military veteran who worked as a senior intelligence officer for the Department of Defense.

Katko is unopposed in the 2020 Republican primary. The 24th is one of three House districts that elected a Republican representative in 2018 after favoring Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election.

Brady PAC endorses Hegar in Senate runoff in Texas

Brady PAC endorsed M.J. Hegar over Royce West in the Democratic senatorial primary runoff election in Texas. 

The group’s executive director, Brian Lemek, said, “As a mother, veteran, gun violence survivor and gun owner, MJ understands this epidemic of gun violence and the reasonable solutions to fix it. Royce West, however, has voted multiple times to expand the places people can carry guns, including school grounds, and we think that is unacceptable.”

West, a state senator, co-authored a 2019 bill that would have removed a provision prohibiting school marshals who engage in regular, direct contact with students from carrying concealed guns.

West said, “Local school boards have a right to decide what measures they need to take in order to make sure that students and persons within that school are safe, and this is just another tool they can utilize to do that.” Regarding the Brady PAC’s endorsement of Hegar, West said, “I have supported the Brady group 95% of the time on measures they have proposed over the years.”

Since the March 3 primary, three primary candidates endorsed West in the runoff: Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, Michael Cooper, and Chris Bell. The runoff, originally scheduled for May 26, was moved to July 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The runoff winner will face incumbent John Cornyn (R) in the November general election.

State executives

Washington Lt. Gov. Habib to retire, leaving the office open

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib (D-Wash.) announced Thursday he would retire from politics and join the Jesuit Order rather than seek re-election this year, setting up an open top-two primary for the office.

Washington is one of only two states, alongside California, using a top-two primary system for state executive offices. Under a top-two primary, all candidates for office appear on the same primary ballot and the top two finishers—regardless of their partisan affiliation—advance to the general election.

Washington’s lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, casting tie-breaking votes, and serves as acting governor while the governor is out of state. 

Candidates have until May 15 to file for the Aug. 4 primary. The top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 3 general election. No Republican has served as lieutenant governor of Washington since Joel Pritchard left office in 1997.

Cooney reports narrow fundraising lead in Montana gubernatorial election

According to financial disclosure reports filed Friday, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney has raised more money in the gubernatorial primary so far this year than consultant Whitney Williams.

Between Jan. 1 and March 15, Cooney raised $245,000 while Williams raised $230,000. Cooney reported $265,000 cash on hand as of March 15 to Williams’ $230,000.

Cooney and Williams are the only two Democrats running in the June 2 primary, which is open to all registered voters.


A look at competitiveness in state legislative elections so far

Ballotpedia has been compiling information about competitiveness in state legislative elections for this year and comparing it to our 2018 data. 

When a state legislative filing deadline passes, we compile information about open seats, incumbents in primaries, total primaries, and total candidates. We then compare that data to figures for the same states as of the 2018 filing deadline. The 16 states highlighted in the graphic above show where we’ve been able to run this comparison so far.

In the states we’ve reviewed, competitiveness has fallen this year compared to the same point in 2018. This year, there are 273 open seats, versus 326 in 2018. The number of incumbents challenged in primaries is also down from 405 in 2018 to 357 in 2020. The number of primaries in general is also down from 845 to 702. All of these declines correspond with the overall drop in candidates seeking office. There are 416 fewer candidates running in state legislative races in 2020 compared to 2018.

Here are some specific highlights:

  • Ohio had the largest drop in the number of open seats. There were 42 open seats in 2018, and 22 this year. 
  • North Carolina, Oregon, and West Virginia had the largest increase in open seats. Each has eight more open seats this year than in 2018.
  • Both Texas and Oregon have 18 fewer incumbents facing primary challenges in 2020 than in 2018. In 2018, Montana had ten incumbents facing primary challenges versus 25 in 2020, the largest increase.
  • Illinois has the largest decrease in total primaries from 61 in 2018 to 37 in 2020. Montana again has the largest increase in total primaries from 38 in 2018 to 55 in 2020.
  • Only two states—Oregon (23) and Georgia (32)—have more candidates running this year than in 2018. Ohio has 86 fewer candidates running in state legislative races this year than in 2018.

Rep. Yoni Pizer concedes to Margaret Croke in Illinois House primary

Illinois Rep. Yoni Pizer (D-12) conceded to challenger Margaret Croke last Wednesday. With all precincts reporting, Croke won 46.4 percent of the vote to Pizer’s 41.0 percent with three other primary challengers receiving the remainder of the vote.

The outcome of this election marked the end of a proxy endorsement battle between Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D). In January 2020, Lightfoot endorsed Pizer, a month before party leaders appointed him to serve out the remainder of Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s (D) term. Following Pizer’s appointment, Pritzker endorsed Croke, who had worked on his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Democrats currently hold a 74-44 supermajority in the Illinois House of Representatives. Since there were no other candidates filed to run in the general election, Croke will likely be the next representative for District 12, holding the seat for Democrats.

Former Republican candidate Kevin Stocker challenges Bill Conrad in Democratic primary for open New York State Assembly seat

Last Friday, Kevin Stocker filed to run in the Democratic primary for New York’s 140th Assembly District. Robin Schimminger (D) has represented the Buffalo-area district since its creation in 1976. In 2019, Schimminger announced he would not seek re-election.

Stocker’s announcement sets up a June 23 primary against Bill Conrad, a Tonawanda town councilman who has already been endorsed by the Niagara County Democratic Party.

Stocker most recently ran as a Republican for New York’s 60th Senate District in 2016 but lost in the primary. In 2014, Stocker was the Republican nominee in the 60th District, but lost in the general election 31.5% to 29.8%.

Power players

“The Working Families Party is a progressive grassroots political party building a multiracial movement of working people to transform America.” – Working Families Party website

The Working Families Party is a political party founded in 1998 by a group of labor unions, community organizations, and other public interest groups. The New York Times has described the party as “an influential, labor-backed organization that has helped push Democrats to the left.”

As of September 2019, it was a ballot-qualified party in Connecticut, New York, Oregon, and South Carolina. According to the party’s website, it has branches in Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington.

The party says its endorsement “is like a progressive seal of approval: it means these candidates can be counted on to fight for us on the issues that matter most, from fair funding of public schools and living wage jobs to ending mass incarceration and getting big money out of politics.” To view a list of endorsed candidates, click here.  

California ballot initiative campaigns are in the final weeks of their signature drives and face the effects of coronavirus

California is under a shelter-in-place order due to the coronavirus pandemic, but several ballot initiative campaigns are in the final days or weeks of their signature drives. As of March 23, four citizen-initiated measures have qualified to appear on the ballot in November. An additional nine ballot initiative could receive enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

The deadline for signature verification is June 25, 2020. However, the process of verifying signatures can take multiple months. Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) recommends that campaigns file signatures no later than April 21. Campaigns that file signatures after the deadline can still have their proposals appear on the ballot for November 8, 2022.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has directed residents to remain at home, except as needed for food, medicine, and other services deemed essential, due to the pandemic. The California Department of Health has advised that non-essential gatherings be postponed or canceled, and the CDC is recommending that people maintain distance between each other. Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, stated, “We were getting 70,000 signatures a week until a couple of weeks ago, when it almost stopped.” According to Fred Kimball, owner of the signature-gathering firm Kimball Petition Management, “We’re all flying by the seat of our pants. No one has ever seen this.”

Campaigns behind the following nine citizen-initiated measures are seeking a place for their proposals on the general election ballot. Coronavirus, however, could have the effect of limiting the number of signatures that an individual petitioner can collect, especially for campaigns that didn’t launch until January 2020.

* Property Tax Transfers and Exemptions Initiative (#19-0003): The campaign Homeownership for Families and Tax Savings for Seniors filed 1.43 million signatures on March 4. At least 997,139 signatures need to be valid. The ballot measure would change how tax assessments are transferred between properties for eligible homebuyers and address resetting tax assessments to fair market value on inherited properties and when corporations and other entities acquire control of properties. Homeownership for Families and Tax Savings for Seniors, which is associated with the California Association of Realtors, has raised $12.08 million.

* Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative (#19-0008): An earlier version of the citizen-initiated measure has qualified for the ballot, but the campaign Schools and Communities First is seeking to replace the initiative with an amended version. The campaign needs to file at least 997,139 valid signatures. Schools and Communities First has raised $17.13 million. Both versions of the ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value.

* Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative (#19-0021): The ballot initiative seeks to expand the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was passed in 2018. The campaign Californians for Consumer Privacy raised $3.42 million for this year’s effort. Robin Swanson, a consultant for the campaign, said, “We’re in pretty good shape with the numbers that we have, but are adhering to public health requirements and putting public safety first. Like most ballot measure campaigns out there, we’d always love more signatures, but we’re dealing with a stark new reality while the state is on lockdown.” At least 623,212 valid signatures need to be filed for the ballot measure.

* Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative (#19-0022): Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures is backing a ballot initiative to issue $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the state’s stem cell research institute. Spokesperson Sarah Melbostad said the campaign’s signature drive has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. “In keeping with the governor’s statewide order for non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home, we’ve suspended all signature gathering for the time being. … We’re confident that we still have time to qualify and plan to proceed accordingly,” said Melbostad. Proponents have raised $5.28 million. The campaign needs to collect at least 623,212 valid signatures.

* Dialysis Clinic Requirements and Consent to Close Initiative (#19-0025): Californians for Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection, which backed a defeated dialysis-related initiative in 2018, has raised $5.38 million for the new effort. The campaign needs at least 623,212 valid signatures.

* App-Based Drivers Regulations Initiative (#19-0026): With $110.58 million, Protect App-Based Drivers and Services has collected over 1 million signatures, of which 623,212 need to be valid. The campaign has the support of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Instacart, and Postmates. The ballot measure would consider app-based drivers to be independent contractors and enact several wage and labor policies that would affect app-based drivers and companies. Spokesperson Stacy Wells said, “We were really lucky. We got our signatures in fast and were able to get off the streets in seven weeks.”

* Packaging Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative (#19-0028): The ballot measure would require CalRecycle, in consultation with other agencies, to adopt regulations that reduce the use of product packaging, single-use packaging, and single-use dishes and utensils. The campaign Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets has raised $3.26 million. At least 623,212 valid signatures need to be collected.

*Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative (#19-0029): The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, with the support of several tribal governments, has raised $7.5 million for a ballot measure to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks. The effort to collect 997,139 valid signatures began on January 21, 2020. “We are at nearly 1 million signatures and were on a trajectory to reach our goal well ahead of the deadline before the unprecedented orders around COVID-19,” said Jacob Mejia, a spokesperson for the campaign. He added, “The health and well-being of Californians is foremost. Thus, paid signature-gathering efforts have paused for the time being.”

Additional Reading:
2020 ballot measures
Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020

Virginia closes schools for the remainder of the school year

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that all schools statewide would remain closed for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak. This was an extension of a previous order on March 13 when Northam ordered all schools to close from March 16 to March 27.

Virginia became the second state to end its school year amid the coronavirus outbreak. Kansas ended its school year on March 17 under an executive order from Gov. Laura Kelly (D).

So far across the country, 45 states have ordered a statewide school closure in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Schools in those states served 48.4 million public school students in the 2016-2017 academic year, of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States.

Florida governor delays state supreme court selection due to coronavirus

On March 19, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced he would delay nominating individuals to two Florida Supreme Court vacancies until at least May 1. The governor said he had not had time to review the candidates’ application materials because of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally under state law, DeSantis would have needed to select the two new justices by March 23.

Two seats on the Florida Supreme Court became vacant after Justices Robert J. Luck and Barbara Lagoa were confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on November 19 and November 20, 2019, respectively. President Donald Trump (R) nominated both judges to the 11th Circuit on October 15, 2019.

Under Florida law, state supreme court justices are chosen through a process of assisted appointment, where the governor chooses a nominee from a list of potential candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission (JNC). On January 23, the JNC submitted nine nominees to the governor. Lagoa’s and Luck’s replacements will be Gov. DeSantis’ fourth and fifth nominees to the seven-member supreme court.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency on March 9 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of the emergency declaration, the Florida Department of Health confirmed that 13 residents tested positive for the virus.


Additional reading:
Florida Supreme Court
Judicial selection in Florida
Florida Supreme Court elections, 2020
Florida judicial elections

Rhode Island Supreme Court selection of justices

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. The current chief of the court is Paul Suttell.

The selection of supreme court justices begins with the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission is composed of nine members. Five of the members must be attorneys. Various elected officials must submit lists of nominations for commission members. The governor receives those lists and then makes his or her selection for the commission seat. The governor picks one name from each of five lists compiled by the speaker of the Rhode Island House, the president of the Rhode Island Senate, the speaker and the president together, and the minority leaders of both houses respectively. The governor selects the final four members of the commission, but without any requirement that he do so from a previously prepared list.

This governor controlled commission submits three to five names to the Governor of Rhode Island, and upon receiving the names, the governor selects and appoints one. The appointed justice must then be approved by both the state senate and house of representatives.

Justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court hold office for life. The seat of one Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, Justice Gilbert Indeglia, will be open upon Indeglia’s retirement on June 30.

Indeglia was a Republican member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991. From 1989 to 2000, he served on the Rhode Island District Court. He joined the Rhode Island Superior Court in 2000 and served there until his appointment to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2010.

As of March 2020, all five justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor. This will be Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo’s first appointment to Rhode Island’s highest court. She assumed office on January 6, 2015. Her current term ends on January 3, 2023.

Additional Reading:
Rhode Island Supreme Court
Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission
Gilbert v. Indeglia

Washington lieutenant governor will not seek re-election

Washington Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib (D) announced on March 19 that he will not seek re-election and instead leave politics to join the Society of Jesus, a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church.

Habib was elected to the Washington House of Representatives in 2012 and the state Senate in 2014. He was elected lieutenant governor on November 8, 2016.

The Lieutenant Governor of Washington is the second-ranking officer of the state and separately elected from the Governor. Washington’s lieutenant governor is up for regular election on November 3, 2020, with a top-two primary scheduled for August 4. The filing deadline to run is May 15.

Ballotpedia is covering the Washington lieutenant gubernatorial election here.

Additional Reading:
Washington lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2020
Joseph Brumbles
Mark Greene

Maryland Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the legislature’s power over the state budget

Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such changes do not make the budget exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Maryland this November.

Currently, the Maryland General Assembly receives a budget proposal from the governor. The legislature is not allowed to add expenditures to it or reapportion expenditures. It can only reduce the state’s operating budget.

In Maryland, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent vote by each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly during one legislative session. The amendment was introduced as Senate Bill 1028 on February 14, 2020, and was sponsored by Democratic Senators Jim Rosapepe, Sarah K. Elfreth, Melony Griffith, Guy Guzzone, Nancy J. King, Douglas J. J. Peters, and Craig J. Zucker. On March 17, 2020, the state Senate passed SB 1028 in a vote of 30-15. On March 18, 2020, the state Legislature passed the amendment in a vote of 95-39. The vote occurred on the last day of the legislative session, which was adjourned early due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 session was originally set to adjourn on April 6, 2020.

The legislature also approved a referendum to authorize sports and event wagering at certain licensed facilities before adjourning. As a legislatively referred state statute, the measure requires the governor’s signature to be certified for the ballot. The measure would also change the uses of the Problem Gambling Fund to target treatments and prevention programs towards individuals with gambling problems that relate to sports wagering.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated.

Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment (2020) #Path to the ballot
Maryland 2020 ballot measures

Coronavirus daily update: March 20, 2020

As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for March 20, 2020, as of Friday afternoon.
Federal responses
  • Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced S.3548, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). According to The Hill, the CARES Act includes the following provisions:
    • $1,200 in direct cash payments for individuals making up to $75,000 annually, with an additional $500 per child
    • Delay the federal tax filing deadline to July 15
    • $208 billion in loans for major industries
    • $300 billion in loans for small businesses
    • Delay payments on federal student loans for three months, with a possible extension of another three months
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the federal tax filing deadline would be delayed to July 15.
  • The United States and Mexico mutually agreed to close the border to non-essential traffic.
Election changes
  • Overview to date:
    • Twelve states have changed primary, municipal, or special election dates.
    • One state (New York) has adjusted candidate filing requirements.
    • Four states have either implemented or attempted to implement changes to voting procedures.
    • Political parties in six states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
  • Details:
    • Indiana postponed its primary election to June 2.
    • North Carolina postponed the Republican primary runoff for the 11th Congressional District to June 23.
    • Texas postponed the special election for Texas Senate District 14 to July 14.
    • The Virginia Department of Elections announced that all voters will be eligible to vote absentee in May’s municipal elections.
State legislative changes
  • Overview to date:
    • Sixteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions.
    • Two (Maine and Maryland) have adjourned early.
    • Five have implemented partial suspensions.
  • Details:
    • The Delaware General Assembly suspended its session for an indefinite period. The suspension had initially been scheduled to last through March 24.
    • Oklahoma State Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R) announced a partial suspension of legislative activity in the State Senate beginning March 18 and ending March 20.
State court changes
  • Overview to date:
    • Thirty-two states have suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
    • Sixteen states have suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
    • Two states, West Virginia and Wyoming, have made no changes to their court schedules on the state or local level due to coronavirus.
  • Details:
    • The Alaska Supreme Court is suspending all superior and district court proceedings until April 3.
School closures
  • Overview to date:
    • Forty-five of 50 states have ordered a statewide school closure. The remaining states are leaving school closures up to local officials. Those 45 states served 48.4 million students during the 2016-2017 school year, accounting for 95.7 percent of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States.
  • Details:
    • California – Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order Thursday night closed the schools that remained open in the state. Newsom did not announce an end date for the order.
    • Hawaii – The Hawaii Department of Education announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 30, was extended to April 7.
    • Missouri – Gov. Mike Parsons announced that all schools in the state had closed. The schools were closed by local action rather than statewide announcement.
    • Chicago – Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Chicago Public Schools would remain closed from March 30 to April 20. At the time of the announcement, all schools in Illinois were closed until March 30.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians
Federal officials who have entered quarantine
  • U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (R-NY)
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
  • U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC)
  • U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS)
  • U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ)
  • U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC)
State officials who have tested positive for coronavirus
  • State Rep. Jane Garibay (D-CT)
  • State Rep. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-NY)
  • State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-CO)
  • State Sen. Clarence Nishihara (D-HI)
Local officials who have entered quarantine
  • Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (WI)
  • Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D-PA)

Additional reading:

Filing deadline passes for state executive, legislative offices in Maine, Colorado, and Utah

The filing deadline to run for elected office passed this week in Maine, Colorado, and Utah. Maine’s filing deadline was March 16, Colorado’s was March 17, and Utah’s was March 19.

In Maine, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
  • State Senate (35 seats)
  • State House (151 seats)
In Colorado, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
  • State Board of Education (3 seats)
  • State Board of Regents (3 seats)
  • State Senate (18 seats)
  • State House (65 seats)
In Utah, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
  • State Senate (15 seats)
  • State House (75 seats)
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Attorney General
  • Auditor
  • Treasurer
  • State Board of Education (8 seats)

Maine, Colorado, and Utah’s statewide filing deadlines are the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 26, 2020, in Virginia.

Maine and Colorado have Democratic state government trifectas, while Utah has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Additional reading:

Ohio Democratic Party sues Ohio Secretary of State over primary election postponement

On March 17, 2020, the Democratic Party of Ohio and Kiara Sanders, a registered voter in Franklin County, filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) in the state supreme court, alleging that LaRose was “patently and unambiguously without jurisdiction and legal authority to suspend, move, or set the date of Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary election.” They argued instead that the legal authority to set the date of the primary election rested with the state legislature.

The plaintiffs asked the court to do the following:
• Bar the secretary of state from setting a date for the 2020 primary election
• Order election administrators to accept and process absentee voting applications until 12:00 p.m. on April 25, 2020
• Order election administrators to direct local boards of elections to accept and count all valid absentee ballots postmarked on or before April 28, 2020, and received on or before May 8, 2020
• Order election administrators to accept and count all valid absentee ballots delivered personally by a voter or his or her family member on or before April 28, 2020
• Order the secretary of state to provide for prepaid postage for all absentee ballots and applications

Earlier this week, LaRose ordered the postponement of the primary from March 17, 2020, to June 2, 2020, after Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered the closure all polls on March 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions surrounding the postponement of Ohio’s primary. On March 16 (before LaRose moved the state’s primary date) a group of private citizens filed suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas at the request of Governor Mike DeWine (R)seeking a postponement of the state’s primary election.

Judge Richard Frye declined to postpone the primary. Frye said, “There are too many factors to balance in this unchartered territory to say that we ought to take this away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus 12 hours before the election.”

In a joint press release issued shortly after 9:00 p.m., DeWine and LaRose said, “Logistically, under these extraordinary circumstances, it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans. They mustn’t be forced to choose between their health and exercising their constitutional rights.” Shortly after 10:00 p.m., DeWine announced that polls would be closed on March 17 by Acton’s order.

In response to this announcement, a candidate for office in Wood County, Ohio, filed suit in the state supreme court, alleging that the postponement violated state election laws. Shortly before 4:00 a.m., the court rejected this argument, allowing the postponement to stand.

LaRose then issued a directive to election administrators postponing in-person voting to June 2, 2020. The absentee ballot application deadline was extended to May 26, and the postmark deadline was extended to June 1. The voter registration deadline, originally February 18, was left unchanged. All ballots already cast, either by mail or in person, would be counted as usual.