Second judge shreds Scott Walker for trying to block elections he fears losing


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker keeps trying to dodge elections he's afraid he'll lose — and judges keep telling him he can't do that.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is desperately trying to prevent voters in his state from electing their own representatives.

But on Tuesday, his attempts to get around both democracy and a recent court ruling were furiously smacked down by Dane County Judge Richard Niess.

"Am I to presume," Niess said, "that the legislature is going to pass a bill that immediately affects individuals in unrepresented districts who will have no vote on that bill, that's going to deprive them of an election?"

This court defeat is the latest chapter in an increasingly desperate attempt by Walker and the Wisconsin GOP to prevent Assembly District 42 and Senate District 1 — whose Republican officeholders resigned last year to take jobs in Walker's administration — from holding special elections.

After voters sued for the right to hold an election, a judge Walker himself appointed, Josann Reynolds, ordered him to proceed, saying, "To state the obvious, if the plaintiffs have a right to vote for their representatives, they must have an election to do so."

In response, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly moved for a special session to change the state law Walker broke, so that it would be retroactively legal for him to block the elections. Walker then asked Niess to put the first judge's ruling on hold, to give the Assembly time to nullify it.

Neiss had none of it. He ripped to shreds Walker's argument that it would be too "confusing" to voters to have a special election this close to the midterms.

"I do not presume that the voters of this state are either ill-informed or unintelligent," he said.

Furthermore, he pointed out, had Walker simply called the elections within four days of the seats becoming vacant, they could have been held the same day as an already scheduled election on April 3. Neiss asked why he should "give the benefit of the doubt to the one who failed to do his duty and caused confusion."

Two judges have now stated the obvious. Walker's motive has nothing to do with preventing confusion for voters. It is to stave off the risk that two more Republican seats could flip to Democrats, as happened in Senate District 10 in January.

Walker is now appealing the second court decision, as the Assembly scrambles to pass the bill that will overrule the judges. But he should think carefully about whether he really wants to die on this hill. Voters are unlikely to see the merit of the argument that they are too stupid to vote twice in one year.

Republicans in Wisconsin have picked a ridiculous fight. And whatever ends up happening, their poor judgment is now on display.