Judge Orders Special Legislative Elections

Mar 25, 2018, 01:44
Judge Orders Special Legislative Elections

Amy Phimister, a Sturgeon Bay woman who was one of the eight plaintiffs to bring suit against Gov. Scott Walker regarding special elections for two empty legislative seats, said she was "ecstatic" to learn that a Dane County judge ruled Thursday that Walker has a "plain and positive duty" to call the elections rather than wait until the November election to fill the seats.

Democrats sued Walker over his refusal to schedule quick elections and said he wouldn't do so because he was afraid of losing the contests to Democrats.

The pair of Republican legislators resigned two weeks after an upset Democratic victory in a state Senate district that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 and had been held by a Republican for 17 years.

But Frost argued that constituents in the districts are deprived of equal representation in both houses and that legislative staff persons who still work out of the offices can not be adequate substitutes for legislators because they can not vote on issues or take any other official actions.

A national Democratic group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed the lawsuit on behalf of voters who argued they were disenfranchised by Walker's decision not to call elections to fill the seats, which had come open on December 29. Reynolds said Walker's interpretation of the law was inconsistent and incompatible with a strict interpretation of the Constitution, something she noted the conservative governor has long said he adheres to.

Walker asserted that he was under no legal requirement to call an election, and that this was simply a partisan witch hunt by the former Obama official.

"That is textbook voter disenfranchisement", said Elisabeth Frost, a plaintiff's attorney.

The win emboldened Wisconsin Democrats who have been calling on Walker to call special elections in the other two vacancies, one in the state Assembly and the other in the state Senate. But if he issues the order one day earlier, the elections could be held on May 29. "But this November, Scott Walker can't hide from his own election". That argument relied on a legally and practically outrageous attempt to reinterpret Wisconsin statutes, which clearly state that "Any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the assembly occurring before the 2nd Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election".

Walker has cited the resignations coming near the end of the legislative session for his decision.

"I'm glad to see the courts uphold the constitutional right for Wisconsin residents to be represented", said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

Vos said he didn't realize Reynolds was a Walker appointee, "But one thing I've learned about appointments", he said.