State leaders' action on elections is 'reprehensible'

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

"The governor and Republican leaders are calling these elections "too expensive" and 'meaningless, ' yet the governor easily could have put these elections on the same schedule as he did the special election for the 10 Senate District, which took place two months after the seat became vacant", said Bowen.

Had Walker called the special election as promptly as possible - as the law states - special elections could have occurred along with the regular spring elections, thus not costing the taxpayers of Wisconsin any additional expense.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said Wednesday the last spring and fall elections cost $235,000 and $389,000 in Senate District 1 and cost $72,000 and $122,000 in Assembly District 42.

In his one-page ruling.

Judge Reilly ruled against Walker on Wednesday saying elections are never a waste of resources in a representative democracy and that the Governor has an obligation to call a special election.

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. A judge denied Walker's request, and the governor decided Wednesday not to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Gov. Scott Walker has ordered special elections for two state legislative districts that have been vacant since late December.

When media outlets, public-interest groups and Democrats in the legislature objected to Walker's plan to leave nearly 250,000 Wisconsinites unrepresented for the better part of a year - and suggested, quite appropriately, that he was blocking elections in which his Republican allies might face defeat - the governor dismissed the complaints.

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.

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Walker and the Legislature are moving quickly to change the law to disallow the governor from calling any special elections after the April 3 primary, thereby circumventing the judge's original order.

"I am not ruling on what the law might be in the future", Niess said. But if the Legislature changes the law, Assistant Attorney General Anthony Russomanno said Tuesday, Walker would be back in court to argue the earlier order can no longer be enforced.

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

Walker has refused to call special elections to replace Rep. Keith Ripp and Sen.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker says Wisconsin law doesn't require him to hold special elections for two legislative seats, which some say his party could have trouble keeping.

"We had a different interpretation, but they determined that's the way to go to move forward", Walker said.

Circulation of nomination papers for candidates can begin March 29 and nomination papers must be filed no later than 5 p.m. April 17. Democrat Patty Schachtner captured the seat in a heavily Republican district about eight weeks later.

The bill they unveiled Monday would alter the timelines for special elections in Wisconsin, effectively barring special elections for these districts in the process.

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