Advocacy group criticizes GOP's extreme lengths to avoid special elections

Scott Walker Grin

Scott Walker Grin

A state appeals court has denied Gov. Scott Walker's request to delay a court order calling on him to schedule special elections to fill two legislative vacancies in no uncertain terms.

Walker told an audience at an event Wednesday night hosted by the conservative radio station WTMJ 620 AM that he will call the special elections for June 12. The most recent special elections this January saw a traditionally Republican Senate District flip 'blue'. Primaries for both seats will be held May 15, if needed.

The seats have been vacant since December, when Walker appointed two Republican legislators to his administration.

The hearing comes as the state Legislature prepares to pass a bill created to circumvent a judge's order from last week giving Walker until Thursday to call special elections in two vacant seats. Last week, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds gave Walker until Thursday to issue an order calling for special elections.

In a rapid-fire series of decisions, an appeals court on Wednesday rejected Walker's request that it block the lower court order. But in an order delivered from the bench Tuesday, Judge Niess said there was no basis for the court to delay such an order.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the ruling would have no impact on plans to change the law.

On Monday, Walker, through the DOJ, which is representing Walker in court, sought an eight-day extension of the deadline to call for the special elections to fill vacant seats in Senate District 1 and Assembly District 42. He says that leads to disenfranchisement of military voters. But Michael Haas, a lawyer for the elections commission, said if Walker calls the special elections today as ordered, the election could take place as early as June 5 with nominating petitions due April 10, five days before the petitions begin circulating for the fall election. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, who resigned last November to become Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary.

According to Shilling, the motivation for Walker and the Republicans to delay the elections is political.

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"I can not bring it to the floor at this point", Fitzgerald said.

Another person who spoke in favor of the bill was William Richardson of Middleton. It also increases the date range by which a special election may be called. Miller said Republicans' proposal could leave residents of certain parts of the state without legislative representation.

After Richardson spoke, a steady stream of opponents lined up to testify.

Democrats have sharply criticized Walker's decision not to call special elections.

"It couldn't be more transparent as to what is happening here". Democrats have accused Walker of being afraid that the GOP might lose the contests. Walker had argued that the issue was moot since the legislature planned to change the law. On Dec. 29, 2017, then-Rep.

Republican leaders had argued that since the legislative session was close to an end, new elections would be a waste of taxpayer money. It could mean lawmakers would reconvene this summer to redraw the maps - and not everyone would be at the table.

The full legislature is scheduled to vote on the bill, in an extraordinary session next Wednesday.

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