Scott Walker issued an executive order scheduling special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats today, as Senate Republicans abandoned their efforts to pass a bill blocking the contests amid intense criticism that the GOP was trying to avoid adding to string of losses. The governor was ordered last week by a judge in Madison to call the special elections by noon on Thursday. Under the proposed measure, Walker would not be allowed to order special elections this year.
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.
Lawyers for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is led by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel and represented Walker in this case, asked the court to delay its earlier ruling in light of the Legislature's plans to change the special election statutes. But after failing to get an extension of state circuit court judge Josann Reynolds' order for long enough to get the legislature back to Madison, Walker chose not to risk a contempt charge.
Fitzgerald testified Wednesday that anywhere from 85 to 150 overseas voters, including some in the military, could be disenfranchised if the special elections proceed under the timeline set up in current state law.
Lawyers for Walker announced they would appeal the court order Wednesday, while Republicans in the Statehouse made a legislative push. Walker had argued that the issue was moot since the legislature planned to change the law.
Democrats had accused Walker of refusing to call the special elections out of fear Republicans would lose the seats. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, of Lodi. Spokesman Reid Magney said the commission stopped tracking costs a year ago after commissioners discontinued the practice because state law doesn't require it to do so.
It also would allow special-election candidates to campaign longer and remove a requirement allowing only USA citizens to act as witnesses of someone casting a military or overseas ballot. "Walker to allow the Legislature to take up a bill that's going to affect the voters in Assembly District 42 and Senate District 1 when they have no say in that bill at all", Niess said.
Democrats have celebrated the ruling as a victory for fair representation as well as another opportunity to flip potentially vulnerable Republican seats.
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said he's taking a wait-and-see approach to the proposal put forward Monday by Senate Republican leaders on changes to the law. If Walker were to call for special elections on Thursday, Kilpatrick wrote, candidates in the two open seats would immediately begin requesting nomination papers from the state Elections Commission and circulating them.
As introduced the bill strips away statutory language that requires the governor to call an election "as promptly as possible".
"There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote".
If Ripp and Lasee's open seats were filled in November, the winners wouldn't have been sworn in until January, leaving Ripp and Lasee's constituents unrepresented for more than a year. Walker's refusal to do his job.
When asked whether Walker would order the elections by Thursday, a spokesperson for the governor referred all questions to the Wisconsin DOJ.