April 3, 2008

So, what was the real margin of Unified's referendum?

Just how close was the vote approving Racine Unified's $16.5 million school maintenance referendum?

Hard to tell, if you compare the community's two primary news sources, the Journal Times and (cough!) RacinePost.com.

Our story Wednesday night put the totals like this:

Our front page at RacinePost.com did the math, dropped the fractions and rounded out the margin of victory into this headline:

(The actual victory margin, according to our numbers, is 54.26% vs. 45.73%, although the county computes it differently; see below.)

So imagine our surprise Thursday morning to see this in a Journal Times story (Page 13 and on the web) about students who went door-to-door on Tuesday campaigning for the referendum:

Where'd those vote totals come from? (Actually, we shouldn't have been surprised by those numbers at all -- they were printed in Wednesday's paper as well -- but we didn't notice it then.)

In any case, this morning we went back to the Racine County elections website, which still shows the totals like this:

(The 1,090 figure is the number of ballots cast with no vote for or against the school referendum, which leads to the county's computation of the result:

Some clarification came from Joan Rennert, Racine County Clerk, who pointed out that the county doesn't canvass school and local elections, only federal, state and county. In fact, the county's Elections results website has this caveat right at the top: Final Unofficial State & County Only - No Local or Schools. So the official numbers for the referendum will have to come from Unified ...

One thing is clear: As President Bush told a group of New York school kids last fall, "Childrens do learn."

UPDATE: We finally got through to the right person at Unified on Thursday afternoon, and got an explanation: Unified had the numbers somewhat wrong Tuesday night -- by about 300 on each side of the ledger we were told. What happened is this: as some numbers were phoned in to Unified, the totals for a different referendum -- the state's 'Frankenstein' veto -- were wrongly given to Unified as its referendum numbers. At some point during the canvass, the error was caught -- but apparently not before the Journal Times got its figures.

In any case, the positively, absolutely, correct-up-to-the-minute Unified referendum total is, for now, anyway -- drum roll, please!: 11,480, yes; 9,681 no. A split of 54.25% vs. 45.75%.

But the most interesting point is how the various communities voted.
In Caledonia and Sturtevant, "no" votes outnumbered "yes" votes...more so percentagewise in Sturtevant than in the larger Caledonia where the talk of secession has been centered. Here's the closeup from Unified:

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