UPDATE: Judge rejects Walker's request to delay calling special elections

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A judge has rejected Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to avoid immediately calling special elections for a pair of vacant legislative seats.

The ruling Tuesday from Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess reinforced last week's ruling by Dane County Judge Josann Reynolds, a Walker appointee. It means Walker has until Thursday to order the special elections.

But they still may not happen.

The Legislature plans to vote next week on a bill changing the special election law. Under the bill, Walker would not be allowed to order special elections this year. A public hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in a state Senate committee on the hastily written measure that would remove the requirement for governors to call special elections for vacant legislative seats "as promptly as possible."

Walker's attorneys argued Tuesday it makes no sense to call the special elections given that the Legislature plans to change the law barring them from being held.

The judge said he's ruling on the law as it exists now, not what it might become, and pointed out voters in the two districts wouldn't have any representation in the Legislature when its votes on a bill to deprive them of a timely election.

DOJ lawyers said the voters in those districts wouldn't suffer any harm by waiting to see if the bill is passed.

Niess rejected their arguments for a stay, saying the administration didn't present legitimate reasons for a delay and there's been no appeal of judge's order. He pointed out the special elections could have been held during next week's spring elections if the governor had acted sooner.

"I should give the benefit of the doubt to the one who failed to do his duty and caused the confusion?" Niess asked.

Department of Justice lawyers indicated the governor would call a special election for June 12 unless the legislature acts.

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