'Trust the process:' Recount underway for Racine schools referendum approved by 5-vote margin

RACINE -- By just five votes, the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) referendum of up to $1 billion was approved on Election Day, April 7. With a petitioned recount underway, that margin could change.

In the heart of a pandemic, an election recount takes on a different look. There is social-distancing tape on the floor. Volunteers wear gloves and masks as they count ballots to decide whether RUSD can keep as much as $1 billion over the next 30 years to spend on building upgrades.

Emily DeBaker

"It has been a tremendous process," said Emily DeBaker, RUSD communications manager. "It's a very narrow margin, but we trust the process, and we trust the people in this room that are making this happen."

The recount -- triggered by a citizen petition -- has proven intricate and sometimes complex. George Meyers, one of the petitioners, would rather the district not be able to spend that money in a race decided initially by five votes.

"We are the second set of eyes to make sure that it was counted properly," Meyers said. "No offense made, don't know who the person was, don't accuse them of anything. It's just proofreading."

The tally will likely change with issues like late postmarks and missing witness information on absentee ballot envelopes. With no way to track down the exact ballot, the board of canvassers performs a drawdown -- pulling one ballot at random from the ward at hand to balance the count; it's something Meyers says has happened 20 to 30 times.

George Meyers

"We have gone beyond the point, for those five votes, of the will of the people. It's gotten down to the luck of the draw," Meyers said.

The draw could bring big changes over the next few decades. Right now, it is unclear when the recount will be complete. Most wards have been counted, but workers still have to satisfy other petition challenges.