What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/20
PA: US Supreme Court allows 3-day extension to count Pennsylvania mail-in ballots
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania’s 3-day extension for accepting mail-in ballots, with justices narrowly denying a request by state Republicans to intervene on the grounds that the state’s highest court had overstepped its authority.
IA: Iowa misused COVID-19 funds, state auditor says
Iowa’s government misallocated at least $21 million of federal assistance intended for COVID-19 relief and must correct the error by the end of the year or face having to repay the money, State Auditor Rob Sand said. Iowa used federal relief money to help pay for a new accounting system.
CA: California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing them to public
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said that California will review the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines that receive federal approval before distributing them to the public, adding an extra safeguard amid concerns that the White House could rush the process.
IL: As COVID-19 surges, so do Illinois teacher retirements
A dramatic increase in Illinois teachers retiring in recent months is likely linked to educators stepping away from the classroom because of COVID-19 health and safety concerns, state officials said. From July through September, 566 teachers from across the state retired, a 45% increase from the same period in 2019, according to Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois data.
NC: North Carolina voters will get a chance to fix or redo their ballots
North Carolina voters whose absentee ballots have problems with their envelopes can now expect contact from board of elections offices in order to fix their ballots by Election Day. The North Carolina Court of Appeals also ruled that ballots could be collected through Nov. 12 if they were postmarked by 5 p.m. Nov. 3, Election Day.
WA: With nearly 1M homes at risk, Washington is losing the wildfire fight
In Washington, about 951,000 homes sit near forests threatened by wildfire, and the number of threatened homes is only set to grow. But rates of prescribed fire, which is key to preventing megafires, decreased in the Northwest over the past two decades.
KS: After death threat to local mayor, Kansas governor seeks toning down of anti-mask fervor
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is urging Kansans to tone down anti-mask rhetoric after Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple received a death threat from a man apparently opposed to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions.
WI: Wisconsin governor’s order limiting gatherings, bar capacity is back in place
A Barron County judge has revived Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ order limiting public gatherings in Wisconsin, including the number of customers who may visit bars and restaurants at one time.
HI: Secrecy shrouds Hawaii's new high-level coronavirus panel
The creation of an advisory panel in Hawaii of state and local political leaders and executives of big companies and nonprofits has been largely overlooked. A month after it was formed, it’s not clear what exactly the alliance is doing.
DC: District of Columbia adds more ‘high-risk’ states to list requiring arrivals to quarantine
District of Columbia health officials added eight states to the city’s list of locations considered high-risk for travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising the total number of states under the designation to 39 as new cases continue to surge across the country.
CT: Thousands of Connecticut students who chose online-only learning haven’t logged on for class
More than 5,000 students across Connecticut who opted for online-only schooling have not logged on to a single day of class, according to state statistics, compounding issues of absenteeism that existed in urban districts before the pandemic and raising new concerns about the state’s achievement gap widening.
MO: Missouri kids struggle to stay connected with virtual learning
Missouri children in poverty have been hit hardest by school shutdowns. Without the support or technology they need, children don’t log in to virtual school. Teenagers are working to help pay bills instead of attending class. These students are at greater risk of academic failure, hunger, abuse and trauma, school leaders said.
IN: Indiana’s COVID-19 daily deaths average doubles in month
Indiana’s daily average of coronavirus-related deaths has more than doubled in less than a month as the state’s tally of new infections and hospitalizations has grown quickly during that time.
WV: West Virginia reports another weekly record in virus cases
For the second straight week, West Virginia has set a record for the number of weekly statewide confirmed coronavirus cases as officials continue to urge widespread testing. The 1,644 positive cases reported shattered the mark of 1,350 cases set in the previous week.
MS: Mississippi governor announces mask mandate for 9 counties
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, announced that a mask mandate will be reinstated for nine counties to combat the rise of COVID-19 cases in the state. The new measure comes come as Mississippi is experiencing a spike in cases following the expiration of the state’s mask mandate at the end of September.
SC: South Carolina law enforcement officials say voter intimidation won’t be tolerated
South Carolina law enforcement officials said they aren’t aware of any Election Day threats, and don’t expect to have problems at the polls, but are working together to ensure all voters can cast ballots without fear of intimidation on Nov. 3.
FL: Armies of Florida lawyers deployed for presidential election
Ever since the bitter legal war over Florida’s 2000 election, decided by just 537 votes, parties and voters have been dreading a sequel but also planning for one. Tightening polls suggest it could happen again.
TX: Texas can reject ballots over mismatched signatures
A federal judge had previously ordered Texas to give voters a chance to resolve signature questions in time for their ballots to be counted. Under an appeals court ruling, that won't happen now unless counties do it voluntarily.
OK: Oklahoma officials warn of fake texts citing polling place changes
Oklahoma state elections officials have notified law enforcement about text messages that are falsely claiming voters’ polling place locations have moved for the upcoming election.
AR: Long lines as early voting begins in Arkansas
Early voting began in Arkansas for the November general election, and lines were reported at several locations around the state.
ME: This election may test Maine’s ballot supply
High voter turnout and high demand for absentee ballots left some Maine voting places short on ballots during the state’s two most recent statewide primary elections. That has led to worries that Maine may not have enough ballots on Election Day in November. If ballots run out, they can be photocopied, but that will slow the count as those ballots can’t be fed into automatic counting machines.
GA: Absentee ballots can begin to be opened, but not counted, 15 days before Election Day in Georgia
Election workers were able to begin opening and scanning absentee ballots 15 days before Election Day under a new Georgia rule.
OR: Oregon voters to decide fate of ‘magic mushroom’ therapy
Measure 109 would make Oregon the first state in the nation allowed to manufacture, deliver and administer psilocybin products and psilocybin-assisted therapy at supervised and licensed facilities. The measure, if voters in November pass it, also would impose a two-year development period for the Oregon Health Authority to establish parameters for the new therapy.
AK: Ballot measure would change how Alaskans vote for statewide candidates
The Alaska ballot measure has three separate but related parts: It would require groups to provide more public information about the source of the money they donate to candidates. It would merge the state’s two primary-election ballots into one. And the top four vote-getters in that primary, regardless of party, would advance to a general election that uses ranked-choice voting.
NJ: New Jersey governor vetoes police body cam bill: 'Insufficient funds'
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill that would have required every state, county and municipal police officer in New Jersey to wear a body camera on duty. Murphy returned the bill to state legislators with a recommendation to find a “more reliable funding source,” adding a statement of support for its general mission and goals.
AZ:Arizona hasn’t inspected school buildings since the pandemic began
The Arizona agency legally mandated with inspecting schools took no action to inspect ventilation systems amid the pandemic. The lack of action from the state leaves districts largely to fend for themselves in handling building ventilation issues.