Election law in a pandemic

Ballotpedia ran a mini-symposium on the strain placed on election law and procedure by the COVID-19 virus. An excerpt from my short contribution:

Whatever your previous thinking on absentee and vote-by-mail procedures, minimizing the need for in-person voting is now the need of the hour. Every vote cast by mail is one that doesn’t add to waiting lines (already a headache even before social distancing) and the need for interaction at sign-in tables.

COVID-19 pandemic roundup

Read: my WSJ piece on a bad Minnesota bill on race and child welfare

Cato has now reprinted, with no paywall, my February Wall Street Journal piece on an audaciously unconstitutional bill moving through the Minnesota senate committee that would introduce explicit racial classifications into the state’s child welfare system, the idea being to institute markedly stronger protections for black families (but not others) against child removal. Earlier here.

Insurance that was written to cover pandemics, and insurance that wasn’t

What’s the worst single insurance-law idea you could bring to bear on the COVID-19 outbreak? How about passing a law to require insurers to cover pandemic-related business interruption even if their policies explicitly named and excluded coverage of that risk? My new post at Cato criticizes bills afoot in the Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York legislatures: “The fact that this category of risk has been widely grasped for many years is among the reasons why state legislatures should absolutely not be permitted to enact legislation retroactively rewriting insurance contracts to mandate pandemic-related business interruption coverage neither promised nor paid for at the time.”

Constitutional law roundup

“San Francisco reverses ban on plastic bags, now bars reusable totes”

“The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is pleading with consumers to ‘just say no to reusable bags’ for the duration of the pandemic, in order to protect baggers and cashiers who’ve inadvertently been placed on the front line.” [Patty Wetli, WTTW] Many cities and states are listening: “San Francisco has reversed its 13-year ban on plastic bags and will now prohibit the reusable bags city leaders once championed because of the coronavirus.” Massachusetts, New Hampshire and other states have taken similar steps. [Jeff Mordock, Washington Times] “We have always been at war with Reusable Totes” [Iowahawk]

COVID-19 pandemic roundup

  • I’ve started a notebook at Cato tracking abuse of government’s emergency powers. First installment tags NYC mayor de Blasio (claims he will shut down synagogues “permanently” if they defy his orders), L.A. mayor Garcetti (going to use the city utility to shut off violators), and a Gotham group that sees the crisis as the perfect excuse for an edict banning tobacco;
  • Drones spy on Brits taking country walks: “Here’s the problem, beyond the creepy secret surveillance: These people in the video are not in violation of this new law. The Derbyshire Police are in the wrong.” [Scott Shackford]
  • To get more ventilators, just order private companies to make them, say fans of the Defense Production Act. Not as simple as that [Megan McArdle]
  • “Needed fast: a plan to open up the economy again in a virus-safe way…. figure out what combination of personal distancing, self-isolation, testing, cleaning, etc. will allow each kind of business to reopen, at least partially.” [John Cochrane and more; Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • Many states have laws against wearing face masks on the street, which one hopes will go unenforced for masks meant to intercept virus transmission [Jacob Sullum]
  • In retrospect, it might have been wise for the World Health Organization to express its opposition to tobacco use in some way other than by calling it a “pandemic” [Pierre Lemieux]

Crow for them, Pai for us: American Internet policies outpace Europe’s in the crisis

As demand for videoconferencing and other online services soars in the pandemic emergency, European policymakers “are now eating crow and entreating video platforms to downgrade the quality of their streams, an about face from the regulatory dogma that ‘all data is equal'” You mean net neutrality wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? On dubious European concepts of data privacy, meanwhile: “The GDPR’s forced data minimization has dulled the effectiveness and granularity of data from mobile apps, devices, and networks which can help manage quarantine efforts and ideally lessen restrictions in uninfected zones.” [Roslyn Layton, AEI; Stewart Baker on the phone location app used in Singapore’s contact tracing efforts] Related: Alec Stapp thread (greater U.S. investment in broadband). More: Thomas Firey, Cato.