Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is appealing two court decisions that would require him to call special elections in two vacant seats by Thursday afternoon.
Seats in the state's 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District were vacated in late December when Walker appointed Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, to administrative positions.
Walker refused to call special elections for the two seats, arguing it made sense to leave them open until the regularly scheduled Nov. 6 elections. But plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee argued they do not have representatives voting on several key issues in the Legislature.
Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds ruled last week that Walker must call special elections in the two districts by March 29. The elections could be held as late as May, and both seats would be back on the ballot in November.
Republican leaders in the state Legislature on Monday introduced a bill that would effectively negate Reynolds' ruling and block the elections from occurring. Both the state Senate and Assembly plan to take up the legislation in an extraordinary session on April 4.
Walker then sought a delay in Dane County Circuit Court to hold off on calling the elections until two days after the extraordinary session.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess denied Walker's request on Tuesday.
A committee hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The legislation would remove a requirement under state statute that special elections be called "as promptly as possible" following a vacancy.
The bill would prevent a special election from occurring after the state's spring election in even-numbered years. It would also prohibit a governor from scheduling a special election any sooner than four months after a seat opens — effectively ensuring that a legislative vacancy occurring in December of an odd-numbered year would not be filled until November of the following year.
Under current law, "any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the assembly occurring before the 2nd Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election."
Walker, represented by attorneys with the state Department of Justice, is appealing both Reynolds' and Niess' decisions to the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which is located in Waukesha.
After appealing the Dane County judges' decisions, Walker also asked the appeals court to grant him the extension that Niess denied him, which would allow him to wait to call the special elections until April 6 — and, depending on legislative action on April 4, not at all.