Walker relents, follows judges' orders to hold special elections

Mar 31, 2018, 07:58
Walker relents, follows judges' orders to hold special elections

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday scheduled special elections to fill the seats vacated by Republican state Sen.

The DOJ had said earlier that it might ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to get involved in the case, but by Wednesday night, Walker decided against it.

But after a third ruling, the governor relented, issuing an executive order for the special elections to be held on June 12 to fill the vacancies in the 1st Senate and 42nd Assembly districts, who have been unrepresented since late previous year.

A state appeals court has denied Gov. Scott Walker's request to delay a court order that he schedule special elections to fill two legislative vacancies in no uncertain terms. A Madison judge last week ordered him to schedule the elections by noon Thursday.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled against the Governor.

Voters in both districts sued Walker with the help of a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Republican leaders had argued that since the legislative session was close to an end, new elections would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, the State Senate held a public hearing Wednesday afternoon on a bill that would remove the Governor's requirement to call a special election. Spokesman Reid Magney said the commission stopped tracking costs past year after commissioners discontinued the practice because state law doesn't require it to do so.

Walker's attorney with the state Department of Justice argued it makes no sense to call the special elections given that the Legislature plans to change the law to bar them from being held. Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is the author of the measure. On Wednesday, Walker appealed to a state Appeals Court in Waukesha.

A 2011 change to state law required the appeal be heard outside Madison-based District 4. Walker on Wednesday asked the 2nd District Court of Appeals to review that decision and delay the order to April 6.

The bill they could pass as soon as next week would apply regardless of any existing court orders. Parts of both affected legislative districts are located in District 2.

State law requires Walker to order special elections to fill vacancies that occur before May of an election year.

It's unclear what steps the Senate will take now that Walker has said he will call the special elections.

On Thursday, Walker issued an executive order scheduling the special elections.

Rep. Keith Ripp and Sen. Frank Lasee, who resigned in December to join Walker's administration.

Fitzgerald told the Senate elections committee that oversea voters need more time to return ballots and holding special elections simultaneously with regular elections is a confusing waste. Fitzgerald says the special election resulted in no military ballots being counted, and insists it's because of tight timelines and lack of information about the contest.

Walker might have conceded defeat and scheduled the elections, but he's not done complaining. "All the governor had to do was obey the law".

According to the judge today, if Walker had called special elections to fill the seats within four days of them becoming vacant, the special elections could have been included in the April 3rd statewide general election next week.

As introduced the bill strips away statutory language that requires the governor to call an election "as promptly as possible". The governor charged that Holder and other liberals from Washington, D.C., are using the situation to raise money for the November elections.

Nate Zimdars, 25, of Ripon said he was surprised when he learned his representative's seat could be vacant for more than a year.

But plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit to force these elections say there's more at play here than just partisan politics. In January, Democrat Patty Schachtner won a shocking upset by 11 points in a northwest Wisconsin state Senate district that had been in GOP hands since 2000 and Donald Trump carried by 17 points in 2016.

"Do you know how surreal it is to stand in front of you with no representation?"