Scott Walker created a crisis in Wisconsin by appointing two Republican state legislators to posts in his administration last December and then refusing to call special elections to fill the vacancies.
When media outlets, public-interest groups, and Democrats in the legislature objected to Walker’s plan to leave almost 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.
When residents of the unrepresented State Assembly and Senate districts raised legal and constitutional concerns about the governor’s failure to respect state statutes that require legislative vacancies to be filled with prompt special elections, and when a legal team organized by former US attorney general Eric Holder took their case into the courts, Walker refused to bend.
When a Dane County Circuit Court judge who was appointed by Walker ordered the governor to call the elections, Walker rejected the verdict and had his lawyers seek a delay in the judgement so that the governor’s legislative henchmen could radically rewrite the state election law so that vacancies could go unfilled.
When another circuit court refused to delay the order, Walker’s lawyers made an emergency appeal for relief to the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeals.
On Wednesday, Appeals Court Judge Paul Reilly absolutely and unequivocally rejected the claim by the governor’s legal team that the special elections were an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources.
“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 by virtue of (state statute),” read the court order from Judge Reilly, which declared that Walker “has an obligation to follow the law just as do we.”
Defeated at every turn in his attempt to dismantle democracy in Wisconsin, Walker finally surrendered. On Thursday, the governor called the special elections—clearing the way for the voters of Wisconsin’s 1st state Senate district and 42nd State Assembly district to choose their representatives on June 12.
A few hours later, Walker’s legislative cronies abandoned their wild-eyed plan to pass new legislation to try to block the court order, with state Assembly majority leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna acknowledging that “the idea of stopping elections once they’ve been ordered is probably a bridge too far.”
Democracy faces too many challenges in these daunting times. But, this week, despite every effort by Scott Walker to avert the expression of the will of the people, democracy prevailed.