Critics of Racine schools’ $1 billion referendum file legal challenge

Annysa Johnson:

Opponents of the $1 billion referendum passed by the Racine Unified School District last month are asking the courts to intervene, saying hundreds of voters were disenfranchised when their ballots were rejected and that the recount was biased because it was conducted by the district itself.

The referendum, which gives the district the go-ahead to spend $1 billion on its buildings over the next 30 years, passed on a five-vote margin April 7 and was certified following a recount in late April.

Voters representing local political and government watchdog groups filed the appeal in Racine County Circuit Court on Friday, saying “the integrity of the vote … was completely lost and is not recoverable.”

“The counting was unreliable. And we’re talking about a billion dollars,” said George Meyers, one of the plaintiffs who filed on behalf of the group known as HOT — for Honest, Open and Transparent — Government. “I think they should just redo the whole election in November.”

Racine Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp said the district was required to oversee the recount but did so with help from city and county clerks and an attorney. She said the canvassers included district staff and poll workers, that the process followed Wisconsin Elections Commission procedures and that the district streamed it live on Facebook.

“It was transparent, and decisions made by the Board of Canvassers were consistent,” she said in an email to the Journal Sentinel Saturday. “The petitioners were present and able to observe every step of the process.”