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Walker calls special elections, GOP drops bill to block them

01 April 2018

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the state Legislature will not proceed with a bill created to cancel two special elections for vacant seats.

Even as Walker was fighting in court, his Republican allies in the Wisconsin Legislature were pushing to change state law in a way that would allow the governor to avoid calling special elections.

The Senate elections committee was set to hold a hearing on the measure Wednesday. Reilly issued the one-page ruling hours after the DOJ appealed two Dane County judges' decisions ordering Walker to call the special elections. The court denied the request Wednesday afternoon, writing that electing representatives is never a waste of tax dollars and Walker is obligated to order special elections.

A Madison judge last week ordered Walker to schedule the contests by Thursday, and an appeals court judge refused Walker's request to delay the order.

DOJ had filed Walker's appeal in District 2, which covers the conservative Milwaukee suburbs and the Fox Valley, rather than District 4, which covers liberal Dane County.

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Walker has been admonished by two state circuit court judges for dragging his feet and, in their view, violating a state law that requires Wisconsin governors to call special elections for vacancies "as promptly as possible". A group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued to force the special elections. They argued that they're being disenfranchised by not having lawmakers in place to address constituent concerns and do other work, in addition to being in place to vote in case the Legislature returns for special sessions.

The commission doesn't have an estimate for how much a separate special election in January cost.

"I am not ruling on what the law might be in the future", Niess said.

Democratic Sen. Mark Miller questioned why Fitzgerald introduced the bill immediately following the judge's order calling on Walker to hold special elections this year.

"Despite Gov. Walker's best attempt to block elections and deny 200,000 voters their constitutional right to representation, justice prevailed and the courts correctly ruled that Republicans can't ignore the law", she said in a statement.

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

Both the GOP-controlled state Senate and state Assembly had begun making plans for a special session to change the law, and Walker said he would have signed it. Frank Lasee of De Pere and Republican state Rep. Keith Ripp of Lodi. "To illustrate how ridiculous this is, nomination papers for the fall elections are due on June 1, which means candidates will already be on the November ballot before the special elections are held".

"Keeping this seat empty is the status quo desired from a select few in positions of power who fear what the outcome of a special election would bring", Zimdars said.

Holder's group and Wisconsin Democrats have countered that the calendar would have made more sense if Walker had scheduled the races when the seats were first vacated in late December 2017, and that there was no justification for leaving two districts unrepresented for over a year.

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Walker calls special elections, GOP drops bill to block them