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Janesville voters approve both city schools referendums


Voters on Tuesday decided to provide nearly $60 million in tax-funded aid to city schools as they approved both a $37 million operational referendum and a $22.5 million capital referendum.

The operational referendum passed on a vote of 16,998 to 13,815. The capital improvements referendum was approved by a wider margin, 20,842 to 10,255.

Superintendent Steve Pophal said those decisions will make a big difference for students and staff.

“We’re just really pleased that the board was able to find the right solution that addresses the needs of the district and that the community could support. It’s real gratifying that we were able to hit the mark,” Pophal said.

The money from the operational referendum will be used to counter a decline in enrollment, which carries a decline in state funding. The $37 million will be used to maintain programming, pay salaries and other daily costs.

About 75% of public school districts in Wisconsin currently use operational referendums, Pophal told The Gazette, so Janesville is not in the minority.

The tax impact of the operational referendum changes each year. Property owners will see increases of $39 per $100,000 of equalized property value in year one, $31 in year two, $29 in year three and $28 in year four. The referendum will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $127 over the life of the referendum

By approving the operational referendum, voters prevented the district from having to consider layoffs and program cuts, Pophal said.

“We’re really excited to be able to continue that work, and we want our taxpayers to know we are thankful for their support, and every single dollar will be used to deliver on the outcomes … and continue to have this productive relationship that we enjoy with our community,” he said.

Voters also approved the district’s $22.5 million capital referendum, which will be used to ensure that schools across the district have the appropriate infrastructure year-round.

The referendum funds will allow the district to add secure entrances and safety procedures to multiple schools, and it will also be used to replace old boilers.

Property owners will pay $5 more per $100,000 of equalized property value every year until the debt is paid off, which will take about 20 years, according to an earlier estimate from Dan McCrea, the district’s chief financial officer.

“As the community has said going all the way back to the survey, safety and security matter,” Pophal said. “We live in a world today where we just have to be hyper vigilant about that.

“Knowing that we’re going to be able to put those life safety systems in place and secure sequence pathways into all of our school buildings and the heating plants that work, the community got that. The vote was loud and clear.”

Pophal called Tuesday a big step for the district and thanked voters.

“At the end of the day, the district belongs to the community, and whether that’s the facilities or the operational side of our organization, we really felt like we were, at this moment in time, where we needed the community to weigh in on what it wants the district to look like for the next generation of kids, and they did that.”

Poll workers process absentee ballots inside St. Patrick School in Janesville on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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Rock County sets voter turnout records

Janesville and Rock County set records for voter turnout Tuesday, eclipsing records set in 2012.

Enthusiasm for the vote was easy to find as people waited in lines.

“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” said Karly Yager, who was among the first to line up at the Rock County Job Center.

Yager and the rest of the country would have to wait into Wednesday to know the result of the presidential election. But Rock County’s totals were announced before midnight.

Joe Biden won Rock County with 54.7% to 43.5% for the president. That was no big surprise, as the county leans towards the Democrats.

Rep. Bryan Steil of Janesville won the 1{sup}st{/sup} Congressional District but didn’t win his home county. He made a good showing, however, with nearly 49% of the vote

A total of 85,617 people voted in Rock County, surpassing the previous record of 81,509, set in 2012.

About 70% of the county’s eligible voters voted.

County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said all polling places had lines at some point during the day, and registrations were higher than she expected.

Janesville reduced its polling places from 10 to four because so many voted absentee and out of concern that not enough pollworkers could be found because of coronavirus concerns.

Getting pollworkers did not turn out to be a problem, and many pollworkers appeared to be 60 or older.

About than 22,500 city residents sent in absentee ballots or voted in-person absentee in advance of the election. Countywide, nearly 50,000 voted absentee.

Concerns about trouble at the polls did not materialize, officials said.

Local law enforcement was ready to react to any trouble at the polls. City Clerk Dave Godek said they weren’t needed in Janesville.

The city of Janesville went so far as to set concrete barriers in front of all the polling places, in case someone decided to drive into them.

“Why risk it, right?” Godek said.

President Trump had encouraged followers to monitor the polls, and it’s possible four people did so in Janesville. The four were at the city’s absentee-counting operation in the gym of St. Patrick School. When asked who they represented, they said they were not authorized to say anything.

The four were required to sign in, however, and the sign-in sheet said they were from Janesville, Madison, Cambridge and Mundelein, Illinois. One of them asked Chief Inspector Diane Quade for the names on the ballots that had to be remade. She said no, that’s illegal.

Absentee ballots have to be remade if the counting machines reject them. Sometimes, the problem is not enough ink in the oval. Sometimes, a person votes for more than one candidate for an office, Quade said.

If pollworkers can figure out the voter’s intent, they remake the ballot and document the process.

The gym was a key chokepoint in vote counting. That’s where Janesville counted all its absentee ballots. Dozens of people worked throughout the day, and the count was completed sometime around 11 p.m.

Janesville bought a high-speed ballot counter for the absentee ballots, which saved a lot of time, after pollworkers figured out how to stop it from jamming. Workers figured they needed to clean it periodically, and the folded ballots had to be straightened, said Chief Inspector Diane Quade.

Two other observers at the Hedberg Public Library said they were from “Democratic Party Voter Assistance and Protection” but were not authorized to say anything else.

Election results are not yet official. The Rock County Board of Canvassers will certify the results Monday.

The other election threat was the coronavirus. Pollworkers taped X’s to the floor and the sidewalk outside polling places to indicate where people should stand to maintain 6 feet of distance. In many cases, the lines extended beyond the X’s.

Pollworkers worked behind plastic shields, wore masks and had hand sanitizer available. Most voters wore masks, although there were not required to.

Trump wins Florida, locked in other tight races with Biden


President Donald Trump won Florida, the nation’s most prized battleground election state, and he and Democrat Joe Biden shifted their focus early Wednesday to three Northern industrial states—Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.

Neither candidate had the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency during an epic campaign that will shape America’s response to the surging pandemic and foundational questions of economic fairness and racial justice.

The two men were locked in tight races across the country, with Trump retaining Texas and claiming the battlegrounds of Ohio and Iowa while Biden won Minnesota and New Hampshire, two modest prizes the president had hoped to take.

Races were too early to call in some of other fiercely contested and critical states on the map, including North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The president, by early Wednesday, had retained many states he won in 2016 and, as long predicted, the race in part seemed to rest on the three northern industrial states where Trump most surprised the Democrats four year ago Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election “ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”

Trump said he would make a statement.

Millions of voters braved their worries about the virus—and some long lines—to turn out in person, joining 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73% of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Early results in several key battleground states were in flux as election officials processed a historically large number of mail-in votes. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes—early or Election Day—were being reported by the states.

Florida was the biggest, fiercely contested battleground on the map, with both campaigns battling over its 29 Electoral College votes.

Trump adopted Florida as his new home state, wooed its Latino community, particularly Cuban-Americans, and held rallies there incessantly. For his part, Biden deployed his top surrogate—President Barack Obama—there twice in the campaign’s closing days and benefited from a $100 million pledge in the state from Michael Bloomberg.

Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. But Republicans maintained several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas and Kansas.

The parties traded a pair of seats in other early results: Democratic former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, and in Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville knocked off Sen. Doug Jones. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.

As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what was to come—and an outcome that might not be known for days.

Biden was watching from home with family and close aides. Trump was watching the results come in with a small group of allies in the White House residence as other staff and advisers floated between a party at the White House residence and various offices throughout the executive mansion complex.

Outside, a new anti-scaling fence was erected around the White House, and in downtowns from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest.

With the worst public health crisis in a century still fiercely present, the pandemic—and Trump’s handling of it—was the inescapable focus for 2020.

For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. Rarely trying to unite a country divided along lines of race and class, he has often acted as an insurgent against the government he led while undermining the nation’s scientists, bureaucracy and media.

Biden spent the day last-minute campaigning in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born, and in Philadelphia with a couple of local stops in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was spending Election Night.

The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.

Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.

No major problems arose on Tuesday, outside the typical glitches of a presidential election: Some polling places opened late, robocalls provided false information to voters in Iowa and Michigan, and machines or software malfunctioned in some counties in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Texas.

The cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security said there were no outward signs by midday of any malicious activity.

The record-setting early vote—and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted—drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.

With the coronavirus now surging anew, voters ranked the pandemic and the economy as top concerns in the race between Trump and Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.

Voters were especially likely to call the public health crisis the nation’s most important issue, with the economy following close behind. Fewer named health care, racism, law enforcement, immigration or climate change

The survey found that Trump’s leadership loomed large in voters’ decision-making. Nearly two-thirds of voters said their vote was about Trump—either for him or against him.

Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 4, 2020

LaVern L. Cleasby

David R. Houfe Sr.

Sheron Mina

Nina Spenle

Gordon Albert Starks

Donald Henry Tomten

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Steil re-elected in 1st Congressional District

The Associated Press has declared incumbent Bryan Steil the winner in the 1st Congressional District.

Bryan Steil, a Republican from Janesville, won a second two-year term by defeating newcomer Democrat Roger Polack of Caledonia.

Vote totals were not immediately available as large numbers of absentee ballots were still being counted late Tuesday night.

A spokeswoman said Steil would not be available for comment until Wednesday.

“We have important work ahead of us, and I will continue fighting every day to defeat coronavirus, ensure everyone who wants a job has a job and keep our communities safe,” Steil said in a statement. “Thank you for your confidence in me.”

Polack said he had not decided whether to run again, saying, “I’m going to let this sit for a bit. …

“It’s not the result we wanted, but I feel I gave it my all and had a fantastic core of volunteers and supporters and worked hard to get our message out there, but obviously came up short today,” he said.

Polack is a lawyer who grew up in Racine and had worked for the U.S. Treasury Department, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he worked to track terrorist funding.

Polack’s most recent job was with a large law firm in Washington, D.C., and Republicans tried to paint him as creature of “the swamp” who owned two houses in D.C.

Steil is a corporate attorney who jumped into electoral politics in 2018 when Rep. Paul Ryan decided not to run again.

Steil has been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, but the two appeared to get even closer after riots broke out over the shooting of a man by Kenosha police.

Steil called on the president to send in federal resources to stem the violence and repeatedly praised Trump’s response.

Trump praised Steil during a campaign stop at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville.

Steil vastly out-fundraised Polack, $3.24 million to $483,251 at last count.

Steil made numerous public appearances throughout the district, often posing with police as he embraced the Republican law-and-order strategy.

Polack was rarely seen. He said he made his pitch through electronic media that targeted likely Democratic voters.

The 1st Congressional District has become a Republican-leaning district over the years as politicians changed boundaries to exclude Beloit and expanded northeastward toward Milwaukee. But President Barack Obama won the district twice.