POLITICS
02/26/2018 06:52 pm ET

Democrats Sue Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker To Force Him To Call Special Elections

They accuse Walker of delaying the vote out of fear the GOP may lose the seats.
Gov. Scott Walker insists he's refusing to hold special elections in order to save money.
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Gov. Scott Walker insists he's refusing to hold special elections in order to save money.

A Democratic group is suing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) over his refusal to call special elections for two seats in the state legislature.

In December, two Republican lawmakers ― an assemblyman and a state senator ― resigned to take jobs in the Walker administration. The governor has said he won’t call a special election for the vacant seats, leaving them to be filled in the regularly scheduled November election, in order to save the state money. The winners of those two races wouldn’t be seated until January of 2019, meaning voters in their districts will go over a year without representation.

Democrats contend that Walker is delaying the vote in hopes of holding on to two GOP seats after Democrats unexpectedly won a January special election in a Wisconsin district that Donald Trump had carried handily in 2016.

On Monday, the National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the Eric Holder-chaired National Democratic Redistricting Committee, sued Walker on behalf of eight Wisconsin voters, saying they had a right to representation in the state legislature that the governor was blocking. The suit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, asks a judge to order Walker to call special elections.

Wisconsin law says a legislative vacancy that occurs before the second Tuesday in May of a regular election year “must be filled as promptly as possible by special election.” 

“Governor Walker’s improper refusal to issue writs of election ... as promptly as possible” is causing “substantial injury to Plaintiffs, who have been and will remain unrepresented,” the complaint says. Some 175,000 people are currently without their full voice in the state legislature.

In January, Democrat Patty Schachtner won a special election for a state Senate seat in a district that Trump had won by 21 points in 2016. Walker said Schachtner’s victory was a ”wake-up call” for Republicans in Wisconsin.

Amy Hasenberg, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the voters would get to elect new representatives this year and accused Democrats of trying to waste taxpayer money.

“The Legislature will be adjourned for 2018 before these seats could be filled in special elections, and staff in these offices are working for constituents until new leaders are elected. Our decision is consistent with the law,” Hasenberg wrote in an email.

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