A judge ruled Thursday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) must “promptly” hold special elections for two vacant seats in the state legislature — elections that he refused to call because he was afraid his party would lose.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds ruled that state law requires Walker, a two-term governor and former presidential candidate, to hold the elections in order to give residents of the two districts representation in the state legislature. The seats have been vacant since December, when Walker appointed the two representatives to serve in his administration.
“To state the obvious, if the plaintiffs have a right to vote for their representatives, they must have an election to do so,” said Reynolds, who Walker appointed to the court in 2014.
Walker claimed he didn’t need to fill the seats because the legislative session will be ending soon, and planned to keep the seats open for more than a year. Wisconsin voters named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit called that decision unlawful.
“We have nobody representing the interests of our Senate district right now and that upsets me,” Jennifer Meyer, one of the named plaintiffs, testified in court. “We’re entitled to representation.”
The judge said that Walker must issue an order scheduling the elections in the next week.
The ruling is a win for Democrats, including a voting rights group led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which helped file the lawsuit. Democrats have performed extremely well in special elections since Donald Trump took office, winning a number of seats in formerly Republican districts, including Pennsylvania’s 18th district earlier this month.
Though both vacant seats in Wisconsin were previously held by Republicans, Democrats are hopeful about their chances. In January, Democrats won a special election in a Wisconsin district that had been held by Republicans since 2000 and that Donald Trump won in 2016 by 10 points.