A Wisconsin appeals court on Wednesday rejected Gov. Scott Walker’s emergency bid to delay a deadline to call special elections for two open legislative seats.
But with the GOP now planning to change state law on special elections, the decision may not constrain Walker for long.
“Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are, as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow,” Judge Paul Reilly wrote in the ruling.
A lower court in Madison had given Walker until noon on Thursday to schedule the two races.
Lawyers for the state argued that the governor should be granted an eight-day extension. They said the issue is moot because lawmakers plan to reconvene next week to rewrite state law, and effectively block the special elections from being held.
Judge Reilly said he was “not persuaded” by the arguments, noting that: “The Governor understands he has an obligation to follow the law as do we.”
The issue now moves to the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court. As the Associated Press reported, state attorneys notified the justices that they will be asked to issue an order before noon on Thursday granting Walker his requested extension.
Doing so would clear the path for an extraordinary session of the state legislature scheduled for next Wednesday by GOP leadership. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and House Speaker Robin Vos have, like Walker, argued that holding the two special elections at this point in the year would be a waste of tax dollars and resources, given that the regularly scheduled elections are already on the books for the fall.
They have filed a bill that would prohibit special elections for vacancies that occur 11 months before a general election. Walker has said he’d sign it.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party and national Democratic groups have called the proposed move an “attack on democracy” that would disenfranchise the two districts’ voters.