In repudiation of democracy, Wisconsin GOP plots to strip powers from incoming Democratic governor
Almost immediately after Democrat Tony Evers narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker to become Wisconsin’s next governor, GOP leaders began plotting to use their gerrymandered legislative majorities to call a lame-duck session to strip Evers of key powers before he even takes office. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the key foundations of any democracy, but Wisconsin Republicans are taking a page from the North Carolina GOP’s unparalleled assault on democratic institutions—and escalating it.
Thanks in large part to their gerrymanders, Republicans have firm control over both legislative chambers, but Evers will be able to veto any bills the GOP passes, including further voter suppression measures like its voter ID law. But Republicans still have plenty of ways to clamp down on Evers’ powers, measures they never for a moment considered when Walker was in charge. In particular, they may try to restrict Evers’ ability to make important appointments to the executive branch, just as North Carolina Republicans attempted in a lame-duck session soon after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ousted his Republican predecessor in 2016.
Republicans are also looking at ways to preserve their grip on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. In the spring of 2020, Justice Daniel Kelly, who defended the GOP gerrymanders before Walker appointed him to the bench, will face voters for the first time. Currently, that election would coincide with the 2020 presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is likely to be relatively high. So what are Republicans proposing? They want to move the state’s presidential primary so that the court race takes place on it own, costing taxpayers money and, of course, ensuring lower turnout.
Republicans are afraid precisely because Democrats could take a four-to-three majority on the court if they can hold one of their seats next year and then beat Kelly in 2020. From there, reformers could sue in state court, relying on the Wisconsin’s constitution’s guarantee of the right to vote, to curtail GOP voter suppression efforts and even their gerrymanders. Taking control of the court will also be critical for stopping Republican efforts to usurp Evers’ powers, just as in North Carolina, which is why Wisconsin Republicans are preparing to go to extremes to undermine fair elections and the rule of law.