On Thursday, a state court judge in Wisconsin ordered Republican Gov. Scott Walker to promptly call special elections for two legislative seats that he'd let lie vacant since December, which would've deprived those voters of representation for nearly a year. But those special elections still might not take place: Even though the judge in question, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds, was a Walker appointee, Republicans in the legislature reacted to her decision with terrifying anti-democratic furor the following day, with state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying he’ll advance legislation to overturn Reynolds’s ruling.
Fitzgerald did not stop there. He demanded that the chief justice of the state Supreme Court discipline Reynolds for “politicizing” her ruling and called Reynolds’s judicial district, which is anchored by the state capital of Madison, a “laughingstock.” In a final Orwellian twist, Fitzgerald declared, “Nobody’s trying to slow down or halt anything related to an election,” which is exactly what he’s trying to do.
That’s because Wisconsin Republicans are fearful of more special election losses, after an upset Democratic victory in January for a heavily Republican state Senate seat. Walker had refused to call special elections for these two vacant seats (one in the Senate and one in the Assembly) for no other reason. That reduced Walker to making patently ridiculous arguments in court, and Reynolds took him to task for blatantly ignoring the law.
But, it seems, if Republicans don't like the law, they’ll simply change it. Absurdly, Fitzgerald is arguing that Reynolds’s ruling would lead to “chaos,” even though officials had no trouble at all administering that January special election. Instead, Fitzgerald would prefer to leave these two districts without representatives—in the very same legislature he presides over—until November. And this is part of a broader GOP pattern. After last year’s special election for the U.S. Senate didn’t go their way, Alabama Republicans decided the best idea was to stop holding special elections altogether. Now Wisconsin Republicans want to do the same thing.