MADISON — Wisconsin Gov.
Tony Evers plans to change the date of the special
election for an open congressional seat because he was
told by the U.S. Department of Justice that the dates he
set last week violated federal law.
The original dates set by
Evers, a Democrat, avoided potentially boosting GOP
turnout in a state Supreme Court election set for April 7.
The congressional seat is in a heavily Republican district
that President Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
But now, Evers is
considering holding the special congressional election
primary on the same day in February as the primary in the
Supreme Court race. He's also considering holding the
general election on the same day in April, his
spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said Tuesday.
Having the special
congressional election in the strong Republican district
on the same day as the Supreme Court election could be a
boost to incumbent Justice Dan Kelly, part of the 5-2
conservative majority who is running for a full 10-year
term next year.
The special election is to
replace Republican Sean Duffy, who resigned on Sept. 23.
That day, Evers set the special election for Jan. 27, with
the primary scheduled for Dec. 30 — far before the
Supreme Court election dates.
Those dates were in
compliance with state law, which requires special election
primaries to be 28 days before the general election. But
they conflict with federal law, which requires a 45-day
gap to allow time for military and overseas voters to
That conflict created an
"impossible situation," Baldauff said. Evers is
in consultation with both the state and federal
departments of justice to set the new special election
dates, she said.
"We want to announce
something as soon as we can," she said. "We just
want to make sure there won't be any additional confusion
for municipal workers, the voters and the
Evers is considering two
different scenarios, both of which would move the general
election to April or May.
Under one, the general
election would be held on the April 7, the same day as the
state's presidential primary and state Supreme Court
election. The primary for the special election would be
Feb. 4, two weeks before the primary for the Supreme Court
race and a host of local offices.
Under the other scenario,
the primary would be Feb. 18, which is the date of the
primary for the state Supreme Court race. The general
election for the special congressional election would then
be May 5.
Evers can't align the
special election with the same primary and general
election dates as the regularly scheduled state spring
elections because of timelines in federal law for
certifying the results and having ballots available,
The Wisconsin Legislature
in 2011 changed the date of the state's primary for fall
elections from September to August to be in compliance
with the 2009 federal law giving military and overseas
voters more time to vote. But the Legislature did not
change the law relative to special elections, creating the
conflict for this race. This is the first time the issue
has come up in Wisconsin since the federal law changed in
On Friday, the state
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos asked Evers to change the
election dates because the Dec. 30 primary would fall on
the final day of Hanukkah. Baldauff said the decision to
change the dates had nothing to do with the Vos request.
Republicans have announced their candidacies in the
heavily GOP district that covers central, northern and
northwestern Wisconsin. They are Tom Tiffany, a state
senator from Minocqua, Jason Church, an Army veteran who
lost both his legs in Afghanistan and worked as an aide to
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and Michael Opela Sr., who lives on
a hobby farm in Edgar.
Church said in a statement
that "Evers' political motivations have resulted in
chaos and uncertainty for voters."
Tiffany said in a statement
that "it is imperative that all military and overseas
voters have the opportunity to vote" and he's
prepared to win no matter the election date. Opela did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
federal judge tosses Democrats' lame-duck lawsuit
MADISON — Wisconsin
Democrats trying to undo laws that Republicans passed
just before Gov. Scott Walker left office suffered
another setback in court when a judge threw out their
U.S. District Judge
James Peterson ruled Monday that Democrats had to make
their case in state court. The Journal Sentinel
reports two other suits seeking to scrap the
Republicans' laws are pending in the Wisconsin Supreme
Court, where conservatives have a 5-2 majority.
The laws Republicans
passed during a lame-duck session limited the powers
of incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney
General Josh Kaul. Most of the laws are in effect
while the legal challenges proceed.
Peterson ruled that
state courts are the place to resolve disputes over
laws and said the Democratic Party didn't prove it was
harmed by the lame-duck laws.