Hearing considers request for special election in 42nd Assembly District

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In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker, never one to put fairness ahead of partisanship, has found a convenient way to avoid embarrassing special election losses: by not holding special elections.

A Wisconsin judge Thursday ordered Gov. Scott Walker to call special elections to fill a pair of legislative seats vacated by fellow Republicans, handing a victory to Democrats who have pushed for the elections to be held.

"Scott Walker is so afraid of Wisconsin voters that he illegally blocked special elections", Democratic Governors Association press secretary Melissa Miller said in a statement.

But Frost argued that constituents in the districts are deprived of equal representation in both houses and that legislative staff persons who still work out of the offices can not be adequate substitutes for legislators because they can not vote on issues or take any other official actions. "Defendant's reading creates a window of just four months in any two-year period in which special elections must be held and thus leaves open the possibility that residents of Wisconsin could go unrepresented for nearly two years if any governor declined to issue an order calling for a special election".

State law calls for the governor to hold elections to fill the seats "as promptly as possible", but Walker repeatedly stated that he had no intention to do so, according to the complaint filed in support of plaintiffs residing in the districts. "Walker's administration's very vocal and consistent policy advocating for strict constructionism and the position taken by the attorney general in this case involving the most basic constitutional guarantee", Reynolds said.

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Walker says the proposal was in response to the state's budget surplus. But if he issues the order one day earlier, the elections could be held on May 29.

"To state the obvious, if the plaintiffs have a right to vote for their representatives, they must have an election to do so", said Reynolds, who Walker appointed to the court in 2014. The proposal had to come back to the Assembly for a final vote, though, after the Senate included new language that requires the Legislature's budget committee to sign off on any spending on new facilities after the prison closes.

The ruling follows arguments in a lawsuit brought by a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Republicans hold an 18-14 majority in the Senate and a 63-35 advantage in the Assembly, so neither race threatens to change the balance of power. Frank Lasee, R-DePere; the Assembly district by Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi.

Democrats, including Holder's group, have launched a coordinated effort to chip away at Republican dominance from lower-level offices on up.

Both resigned to take jobs in Walker's administration. Ripp had held the 42nd Assembly seat, which represents much of Columbia County and about the western third of Dodge County, since 2008.

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