Those inconvenient election consequences

“Elections have consequences!”

We’ve heard that one before. Frequently, in fact, after each of Scott Walker’s three victories in elections for Wisconsin governor.

It was the rote retort by the Republicans who controlled both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office to Democrats complaining about changes in public school funding, DNR authority in protecting natural resources and other governing actions with which they disagreed.

Truer words have rarely been spoken in Madison. Elections certainly do have consequences—that’s the whole point. Election winners are empowered by the voter majority, as Walker was, to put the stamp of their governing ideas on their offices within the limits of the checks and balances system.

The elected officials in charge of state government had been telling Wisconsinites that for the past eight years. But less then 24 hours after the Nov. 6 election, they were telling a new version of election truth. In this one, elections don’t have to have consequences. If politicians don’t like the consequences, they don’t have to accept them.

The ballots that elected Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s new governor had barely been counted when Robin Vos, leader of the Republican majority in the state Assembly, threatened to deny Evers some of the powers of governor’s office that Walker has used since 2010.

In a transparently disingenuous attempt to justify restricting the new governor’s ability to perform the duties of his office, Vos said the Legislature made a “mistake in giving too much power to Gov. Walker.”

To correct that suddenly discovered “mistake,” Vos suggested legislation that would limit Evers’ authority in rules implementing state laws and change state boards in ways that would restrict the governor’s appointment powers.

Aside from the obvious hypocrisy in discovering that the office of the governor has too much power only after the opposing party’s candidate is elected, what Vos and other legislators are attempting is a dazzling example of raw political greed. Republicans control both houses of the Legislature. They hold most of the cards and already have the power to limit the new administration’s initiatives at almost every turn. Evers’ impact will be muted at best.

But that is not enough for these greedy politicians. That became even more obvious last week when it was reported that leaders of Assembly and Senate majorities are considering changing the scheduled 2020 Supreme Court election out of fears that a justice appointed by Walker might not be re-elected.

The legislators are worried because the court election coincides with the April presidential primary election, which, they calculate, will encourage more voter participation than usual, particularly among Democrats. In other words, the election is a problem because too many people might vote.

Holding a separate election for the Supreme Court post in March, as is being discussed, would cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It would also result in a much smaller voter turnout—apparently just what the Legislators think is needed to make the re-election of the conservative Justice Daniel Kelly more likely.

It is difficult to believe that most Wisconsin voters, regardless of their political loyalties, would approve of these efforts to limit their influence.

Commenting on the Wisconsin situation, which is getting national attention, Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Missouri who is recognized as an expert on state legislatures, said voters are apt to see these attempts as “sore-loser power grabs that may ultimately rebound against the party that pursues them.”      

 That would be an election consequence.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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