Scott Walker

Sctt Walker has promised to sign any new election plan passed by the Legislature to alter state election law to Republican advantage.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Defiant Wisconsin Republicans say they’ll call an extraordinary session to change the law rather than comply with a court order to hold special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder called the move “stunning.” He issued a news release pointing out that constituents in two Senate districts have gone unrepresented since December because of Walker.

Holder said the call to revise the election statutes was "stunning."

“(Republicans) appear to be afraid of the voters of Wisconsin," Holder said.

Holder heads a national Democratic group that sued to force the special elections. Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds, who was appointed by Scott Walker, ordered the governor on Thursday to schedule the elections by March 29.

She called the governor's refusal to call the elections a case of  “textbook voter disenfranchisement.”

Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Keith Ripp, both Republicans, left the Legislature in December to join Walker's administration. Wisconsin law says the governor must call special elections to fill legislative vacancies that occur before the second Tuesday in May in an election year.

Democrats say that Walker’s trying to delay the election because the GOP could lose the seats. Walker warned of a Democratic wave after Patty Schachtner defeated Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow in a January special election to fill a Senate vacancy in a deeply red northwestern Wisconsin district.

Schachtner’s victory is consistent with scenarios across the nation, including the Deep South. Since the election of Donald Trump, Democrats consistently have either defeated or outperformed Republicans in areas that voted for him in 2016.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement that Republicans were throwing a "temper tantrum" because they lost in court and fear the open seats could flip to Democratic control.

"Republicans are clearly intimidated by the thought of losing power and would rather create chaos and confusion going into a tough re-election year," Shilling said.

Neither race would affect the balance of power at the Capitol, but losses could further invigorate Democratic voters, who are showing renewed enthusiasm this year.

Wisconsin’s electoral map was drawn to make it all but impossible for Republicans to lose control of the Legislature. But GOP prospects in the state this year could be further reduced by the outcome of a lawsuit claiming their map is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing that claim.

Walker has promised he would sign any new election plan passed by the Legislature to alter state election law to Republican advantage. The Associated Press said it was an unusual announcement for Walker, given that specifics of the new legislation are murky and the governor rarely commits publicly to signing bills.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a joint news release that they only want to change the law because it means special elections and regular elections for the open seats will occur simultaneously, confusing voters and wasting tax dollars. The Legislature must reconvene to revise special election statutes, they said.

But Walker has consistently been quick to fill vacant judicial seats with his supporters in the same year as elections for those seats. The appointments give his allied justices the opportunity to run as incumbents, who historically have a 90 percent rate of winning.

As for wasting taxpayer money, Republicans have given away billions of dollars to corporations since taking control off state government, including last year’s historic incentives to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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