Yet Another WI Judge Says Gov. Walker Must Order Special Elections By Thursday

on July 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images North America

Yet another Wisconsin judge said Tuesday that Gov. Scott Walker (R) must call special elections by Thursday to fill the vacant seats of two state legislators.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess denied the state’s Justice Department’s request that Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds’ order from last week be delayed until April 6. According to WISC’s Jessica Arp, Niess filled in for Reynolds Tuesday because the latter is on vacation.

Why did the state want the order delayed? After Reynolds’ ruling last week, the Republican-controlled legislature called an extraordinary session for April 4 to change the very special election law in question.

The proposed change to the law would prohibit the governor from holding special elections after spring elections in years when the seats would otherwise be filled. The spring election, it so happens, falls on April 3 this year.

Judge Niess noted the irony Tuesday.

Am I to presume that the legislature is going to pass a bill that immediately affects individuals in unrepresented districts who will have no vote on that bill, that’s going to deprive them of an election that has been ordered by Judge Reynolds?” he asked the state’s Justice Department, according to the Capital Times’ Jessie Opoien.

Plaintiffs — represented by the National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which itself is led by former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder — argued that the state was trying to get a “back door stay” of the order, according to the Associated Press’s Scott Bauer.

According to the Associated Press, Niess called Reynolds’ ruling last week “spot on” and noted the state hadn’t actually appealed the decision.

“There is no basis for this court to even consider the legislative proposal that is being put before the Senate,” Niess said after announcing his own decision, as quoted by Bauer.

“I am not ruling on what the law might be in the future. I am enforcing the law as it is now,” he added separately, according to Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson.

Correction: This post previously referred to proposed changes in Wisconsin election law that would prohibit the governor from holding special elections after primary elections in years when vacant legislative seats would otherwise be filled. However, Republicans are proposing to change the law to prohibit holding special elections following spring elections in such years. TPM regrets the error.

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