The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 new school referendum drew strong support in some neighborhoods, but was soundly rejected in others.

Precinct-level vote results released by the County Clerk’s office today show that the referendum carried only three of Evanston’s nine wards and also went down to defeat in the Skokie portion of the District.

5th Ward – 67.33% Yes

Support was strongest in the three 5th Ward precincts west of Green Bay Road that included the proposed new school site — 76 percent of voters there supporting the referendum.

However turnout in those precincts was light, at 24 percent, below the city-wide average of 31 percent.

5th Ward voters living east of Green Bay Road, who were outside the proposed attendance area for the school, rejected the referendum by a narrow margin.

2nd Ward – 52.21% Yes

In the 2nd Ward, voters in Precinct 1, adjacent to the attendance area for the proposed school, rejected the referendum, with only 41 percent voting yes.

But residents in the 2nd Ward’s more westerly four precincts, some of whom of which would have been served by the new school, supported it, with 57 percent voting yes. Turnout there was also below average with 25 percent casting ballots

8th Ward – 51.98% Yes

In the 8th Ward, voters in four of the five precincts supported the referendum, with support especially strong in the easternmost section of the ward. But voters in Precinct 4, which includes much of the Oakton Historic District, rejected it.

1st Ward – 49.85% Yes

In the 1st Ward voters in the three precincts that include portions of downtown supported the referendum by a 52.6 percent margin, while voters in Precint 3, which is centered on Orrington Avenue north of downtown, rejected it, with only 43.5 percent voting yes.

Turnout in the pre-referendum precincts was low, at 21 percent, while turnout in the anti-referendum precinct was much higher, at 37 percent.

9th Ward – 49.11% Yes

In the 9th Ward voters in Precinct 1 at the east edge of the ward and in Precinct 2 at the west edge backed the referendum with almost 56 percent voting yes, but voters in the other four precincts rejected it.

3rd Ward – 47.19% Yes

In the 3rd Ward voters in precincts 3, 5 and 6, areas with large numbers of apartments in the southeast corner of the ward, supported the referendum with on average a 54% yes vote. But in the other three precincts, on average only 41 percent voted for the referendum.

4th Ward – 44.68% Yes

In the 4th Ward, voters in precincts 3 and 7, the ones closest to downtown, supported the referendum with 54 percent voting yes. But in the other five precincts only 41 percent supported the referendum.

Skokie – 43.34% Yes

Two of the eight Skokie precincts in the district supported the refendum, but their votes were overwhelmed by the precincts that rejected it.

7th Ward – 36.27% Yes

In the 7th Ward the referendum only carried in the two Northwestern University campus precincts, where a total of 8 votes were cast. It went down to defeat by a larger margin in the rest of the ward.

6th Ward – 34.37% Yes

In the 6th Ward the referendum failed to carry a single precinct, coming close only in Precinct 6 on the Skokie border where 45.8 percent voted for it.

Both the 6th and 7th Wards are the sites of schools that would have been likely to lose low income students to the new 5th Ward school if the referendum had been approved.

Related document

Precinct level District 65 referendum results

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Rejected soundly- by a wide margin of non-voters-

    If only 24% of the 5th ward showed up to vote with 67.33% in favor, this means that only 16% of the 5th ward voted in favor of the school.    I'd hardly call that support.

    If the rest of the 76% of the voters cared deeply about this school, they would have showed up on voting day.

    This is a big defeat for the school referendum.

    Furthermore, when you factor in the % of people who showed up to vote in other districts (using 31% on average, but my guess is some wards had more voters than others) there really is not a big difference in terms of #s who supported/didn't support the referendum. Even in the 6th ward, it comes down to 10.8% of overall voters in support.- much closer to the 16% figure than this graph shows.

    Time to pick back up the pieces of this community and move forward.   Is Hardy Murphy the one best qualified to lead?

    1. Turnout

      It is probably worth noting that voter turnout is generally lower in areas with more low income residents than in higher income neighborhoods.

      It's also worth noting that voter turnout in elections having to do with property tax issues tends to be lower in areas with a high proportion of renters, compared to areas with a high proportion of homeowners who actually see the property tax bills for the property they live in.

      These patterns are true not just in Evanston, but all across the country.

      Thus we should be cautious in interpreting the significance of turnout levels in particular neighborhoods for this election. It's an interesting data point, but it only goes so far.

      — Bill

      1. true data

        Bill, I agree with your general propositions, but the numbers are what they are.

        Four years ago, the 5th Ward, with the same boundaries, on a cold Tuesday in early February, with the economy in free-fall, turned out almost 1500 voters just in the Democratic primary. In the precincts west of Green Bay, nearly 1,000 votes were cast for Barack Obama alone.

        Yesterday, in the best weather I can remember ever having for a primary in my entire life, only 530 5th Ward voters — whether voting Democratic, Republican, or taking no partisan ballot — voted in favor of what had been called, for years of discussion, a "5th Ward school," and in the 5th Ward precincts west of Green Bay, only 420 people voted yes.


        Without extensive and valid surveying we don't know whether those that stayed away were low-income voters, but economic demographics alone can't explain the turnout (or, more apt, 'turn-off.") I'd agree — in fact would argue — that the electorate is overall disenchanted and disheartened with the electoral process, but the tenet that "all politics is local" still has some validity, and in general an exception to voter disconnect is when something hits "home."

        The "why" will generate further discussion, but it's inarguable that the bond referendum, at the heart of which was a new school, despite all the renderings, meetings, advertisements, and mailings, for some reason failed to motivate the average 5th Ward voter to vote for it.

        1. You’ve gone way too far in

          You've gone way too far in analyzing this to compare turnout in a referendum/judges election unfavorably with the bar that was set when voting for the nation's first black President — a previously unimaginable event of historic proportions.

          Hello people — 76% of the voters in the area that has been bused without a choice for 45+ years — so that Evanston can say it has integrated schools — would now like a choice.


          Over three quarters.

          Would like a change.

          Where is the fairness in this city when 76% of the voters of the area who pay the price for being bused say one thing, but so many in the rest of the city can't put themselves in those shoes and try to see the world from that perspective?

          You assume turnout was low because of a lack of support. 

          You did not sit at the public forums and listen to person after person and person of the 5th ward, from community leaders to average parents and residents, talk passionably about the need for a school, for the good of the neighborhood. And because their children had solely and unfairly paid the price for desegregation for too long.

          Would you ever consider buying a home and moving to a neighborhood that didn't have a school?  Where every child starting at age 5 gets put on a bus and sent across town to somebody else's school?

          But none of this matters, or even registers with you, does it?

          1. Passion

            If 76% of ward residents so wholly felt passionately about this school, they certainly had the ability all day Tuesday to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot for it.

            The fact of the matter is, for something you claim is a heartbreaking injustice that negatively affects child after child in the ward, the numbers say they couldn't be bothered to make that voice heard.

            I don't want to hear about how generally, renters don't care about tax issues that don't affect them or generally, primaries are low attended or generally, minorities are disenfranchised from the voting process.

            This was the way to get that school they allegedly are dying for and they knew it. But yet they stayed away from the polls? It sounds to me more like it was more important to other wards to get that school than for the wards in which it would be built.

          2. The 5th Ward parent survey is an important consideration


            To me, the deciding factor in this issue was not taxes but this: what do the parents of the affected children think?  Many, many of the pro-5th-Ward school activists are neither parents nor educators, and they seemed to ignore that parents, while wanting shorter bus rides, wanted to stay in the schools they currently attend.  I have heard the passionate speeches, but I think the parents' wishes should hold more weight.  I do think the District has an obligation to listen to these parents' request for shorter bus rides – but, to me, that translates into adding bus routes, not into building a new school.

            What if these parents deliberately moved to the 5th Ward so that their children could attend one of these high-performing schools?  Who are we to negate that choice?  Why, then, would we build a school if we don't have a guarantee that there will be children to attend it? (Quoted from the survey "The majority…indicated that parents should have a choice of whether or not to send their children to the new school – driven primarily from a fear of being forced to withdraw their children from the current school they attend.")

            Just because there's a demographic split in voting does not mean what you imply: many people put a lot of thought into their votes.  To suggest suggest that everyone simply voted with their wallet is both unfair and divisive.

          3. 76% of the voters

            Michele, 76% of the voters of the area that is bused voted for the referendum.  Is this not a more up to date survey than the one that said everyone was happy witht the status quo?

            It would have been a neighborhood school choice. If someone moved to the neighbiorhood so that they could go to Willard, they still would have been allowed to do so.

          4. Data spinning

            Jim, You are correct that 76% of the people WHO VOTED in the 5th ward, supported the referendum. But what you don't mention is all the people in the 5th ward who had ample opportunity to voice their opinion, and chose NOT to vote. Implicitly this is a NO VOTE. There was pressure in the 5th ward for people opposed to the school referendum to remain silent. We all know that there is a very vocal group of people who support a 5th ward school, and they will likely continue to support a 5th ward school. That is their choice and i respect their opinion. I disagree with their opinion as do a majority of people in Evanston.

            I have lived in Evanston for almost 20 years and never recall seeing such a well organized and well funded effort to sway the public. Think of all the meetings, the videos, brochures, and dignitaries rolled out to support this effort.

            And it failed. Again, people chose NOT to VOTE. People had ample opportunity. it was a beautiful day. So those who chose NOT to VOTE registered their opinion.

            Let's now address the educational issues and programs that can best support all children in Evanston. Focus on results and achievement instead of process. Time is of the essence for our children.

            Maybe Dr. Murphy can lead the way. He's in charge. The board needs to be specific in their direction and let him and his team execute the plan.

          5. There is no way to correlate voters and parents

            The problem with using the vote as a rubric for parents' wishes is that not all registered voters cast a vote.  We don't have any statistics on which way parents voted – all we know is that 76% of VOTERS (643 out of 846 voting) wanted the school.

            When saying that, you have to remember that only 24% (846 of the total 3,525 registered voters) of the 5th Ward voted at all.  This means, if you frame those numbers in the total registered voters in the 5th ward, only 18% cast a yes vote for the referendum (only 6% of total 5th ward voters cast a no vote.)  Not a thundering yes, even if we don't know what the non-votes mean.

            I am certain there are many people across Evanston who want this school – I just don't see any certainty that those people are the parents of students affected by the decision.  Parents should have the deciding vote. One way to read the low voter turnout may well be that parents saw themselves in a Catch-22 situation: vote for what they want for their own children, but cast a vote seen as "racist," or vice versa.  We have no way of knowing if this is true, but if presented those options, I would have a hard time voting.  

            What's more, there is zero reason to build a school if the majority of parents "choose" not to send their children there: we have no data on how many parents would exercise their right to attend another school, and that is absolutely critical information.  Are you suggesting we say yes to this referendum, even if it means the school stands empty, or at half-capacity?  That is money we then can't spend on programs to improve student achievement.

            These are students, not political pawns or guinea pigs.  I'm tired of seeing random, unstructured, and unproven efforts directed at this demographic, even if those efforts have the best of intentions.  I'm tired of having good students undervalued in the discussion as the focus goes to poor-performing students.  I care about Evanston's kids, and I want more for all of them. 

            Why aren't we searching for data-proven best practices across the country to best help these students, and implementing those?  I am absolutely willing to put money towards this problem, but I'm not willing to throw money at it in hopes that the problem will go away: I want my money to WORK.

          6. Sanity



            Thanks for a voice of sanity in this climate changing debate.

            The issue is what is best for the children. 

            The plurality of anecdotes is not data.

          7. Sure, the parents

            Sure, the parents of the current students have an important voice.  But this is/was a decision that would affect the community for at least the next 50 years — the "designed life" of a school.  I think there are lots of stakeholders in the 5th ward who deserve to weigh in as well. 

            Agreed that the district did not do a good job of explaining how the building would be fully utilized out of the gate. A TWI class for each grade was to be transferred from Willard.  Perhaps others could have been shifted as well.  But my thought (and I think the administration's) was to get it approved and built, give the neighborhood first crack at it and then make plans accordingly.

            I would have liked to have seen a King Lab – type program as well (I mean the original one which drew an integrated cross-section from across the city), but we have 2 magnet schools already.  But wait, one is in a former middle school and we need middle school space.  Would it have made sense to move King Lab (the K-5 part) back to where it was created in the 5th ward and reclaim the current King space for middle school use?  King Lab elementary school at Foster Field ina  new state-of -the-art lower school campus, and King Lab Middle school where it now exists?

            Just a thought . . .


          8. Point of clarification

            When I said "I'm tired of having good students undervalued in the discussion as the focus goes to poor-performing students." I am speaking of the rhetoric surrounding this particular issue and these particular students, not of the general policies in D65. 

          9. Integration matters

            My children attend King Lab.  For years I have dealt with buses voluntarily, buses which I PAY for because they attend a magnet school.  Why?

            My children could attend a perfectly good majority white school.  For 10 years, I have sent children to a school that is more integrated.  A school with an extremely active PTA.  One that provides a close-knit community that will last them through their elementary years.  My neighborhood school is a great school (I have been to many kindergarten information nights), so this is no slam on them.  I have no doubt my children would thrive there as well.

            But integration and diversity are important. When my children started, King Lab was the choice where children in wheelchairs were kept in the same classroom as regular students.  Where the big annual school celebration is not on the traditional holidays, but on Martin Luther King Day, and the message is "how far we have come" and "how children of different colors are best friends".  Over the years, it has become even more integrated racially, much to it's benefit.  And it is not a block away from my house.

            In addition, my middle school is 25 minutes away from my house, as much as an hour by bus.  Not much neighborhood there.  Of course, there is no need for community or neighborhood support in middle school -everyone knows how those are the easy years.

            So perhaps the reason people voted the new school down is because they actually think integration is vital.  The school board did not present an alternative way of continuing to provide integration.  They chose to make this an integration/ no integration vote.  And the idea that a school built at the very most northernmost part of the area it serves would be just as distant to many of its users as their current situation does not help their cause.

      2. Voting Numbers

        My compliments to you Bill and the Evanston Now staff. Your election coverage has been strong and balanced. It is great that your site posts comments right away and allows a discussion to occur. It has been much different than the other media in the city. Congratulations on the fine coverage.

  2. Correlation between turnout and vote

    If you look at the turnout ratio and %no votes out of total votes within the precinct there is a strong correlatoin.  Precincts with higher turnout's had a higher percentage of no votes than those with low turnout.  This suggests to me that resistence to the measure was a stronger motivator to registered voters than support for it.

    Also it is interesting that the biggest precinct in the fifth ward had more no votes than yes votes.  So this referrendum was definitely not the fifth ward against the rest of Evanston.

  3. Branch libraries

    I find it interesting that the same wards that clamor for branch libraries voted against the referendum.

    1. The Colbert video, etc.

      Every registered voter in Evanston should watch that video. As a product of integrated schools who was bused 10 miles from home for elementary, junior high, and high school, I strongly applaud the defeat of this referendum.

      Evanston is a very special place for many reasons, perhaps the most important of which is the integration of our public schools. My family lives here because of that integration. A well-thought-out and thoroughly surveyed magnet school in the 5th Ward might make sense. But this referendum did not.

  4. Playing with the data

    There is a sizeable difference between those who voted FOR the referendum and those who did NOT vote at all. Why did the majority of potential voters NOT vote?

    Jeff Smith asks:"The "why" will generate further discussion, but it's inarguable that the bond referendum, at the heart of which was a new school, despite all the renderings, meetings, advertisements, and mailings, for some reason failed to motivate the average 5th Ward voter to vote for it."

    That you have not answered.

    1. Time to move forward

      Our democracy works. It is evident in all the events, flyers, campaigning, meetings and results.

      The votes are in and the School referendum is defeated. It's clear from the results what our community wants and what our community doesn't want. Recall, the Pro-Referendum group organized early, raised significant funds, generated support from many political and community leaders, inundated the community with advertisements and information, but failed to sway the people. Remember too, that there is a positive inclination to publicly support the referendum; Evanston supports education, people want to help all children to succeed, people don't want to be viewed as racist (or labeled that way). There is an inclination to be silent if you had questions or were against the referendum.

      But this is how democracy works. People also listened to and followed respected leaders like Lorraine Morton and Hecky Powell. People raised questions did their homework and VOTED. If you didn't vote, don't complain. Everyone had their chance. The data is the data and people will manipulate it to fulfill their agenda.

      But the vote is in, and it's time to move forward.

      What do we need to do? First and foremost is focus on the children. D65 should exist to meet the needs of all children. D65 should provide an educational environment where all children are challenged to fulfill their potential. Let's focus on achievement and creating a positive, engaged culture in the district.

      How do you do that? Hire OUTSTANDING principals who provide leadership at each school. Hire HIGHLY effective teachers who inspire children in the classroom. There are clearly some outstanding principals and many highly effective teachers, but we need more and this has to be a priority for our district. Our children, all children, deserve nothing less. It's the people in our schools that make the difference.

      It's been clear under the current administration that this hasn't been a priority. Too many distractions have preoccupied our board and administration over the last 10 years. If this administration isn't prepared to focus on what truly matters to our children, then it's time to make a change at the top.

      Teachers and all District 65 personnel should know that our community highly values their exceptional efforts and those that go above and beyond. Many of you do and we say "Thank you." On the flip side, our children cannot afford low expectations and just meeting standards. Personnel who accept the latter will need to find other opportunities.

      Let's move forward together as a community.


  5. Education is what is important

    Children don't perform poorly in school because they are being bused to school.  At least that isn't the case in Evanston, we are small town of eight square miles.

    My children were bused to school and it served them well. Let's find a better way to educate the children who don't perform. You can build what you want, but at the end of the day if the child doesn't have the resources, and support both in school and at home, they will not perform well.

    I think it is sad to see that some who supported this referendum will continue to waste our time and precious resources on this issue. I urge the school board and superintendent to get back to work and come up with solutions to better educate poor performing students throughout the district.

  6. Why was the turnout so poor, then?

    I agree with Jim's critique of Jeff Smith–comparing this election with the 2008 presidential is apples and oranges.

    However, if you look at the last municipal election–2009–which is a more apt point of comparison, there were actually 300 more ballots cast in the ward during the '09 election.

    I am sure that there were "person after person after person" from Ward 5 expressing their support for the referendum at public meetings.

    But that is irrelevant to the discussion.  The election is how the community makes decisions about these things.  Most people in the Ward stayed home and the turnout in the Ward was worse than other recent comparable elections.

    This clearly shows that the issue isn't that important with the vast majority of residents in the ward. 

    1. I don’t speak for the 5th

      I don't speak for the 5th ward registered voters who didn't show up to vote.   You will have to speak with them if you really want to know why turnout was low.  Go ring some dooorbells.

      But let's keep a few things in mind.  Turnout was a record low across the board.

      The fact that so many people don't vote in so many elections is a lousy commentary on our "democracy."

      I would say that, in general, the most common reason for not voting is "it doesn't matter anyway".  Or, in other words,  "the fix is in".

      But we decide all of our elections on the % of actual votes cast, not on the # of voters  as a percent of the total eligible voters.

      And the referendum was approved by 76% of the voters in the 5th ward/new school atttendance area.


      In favor.

      Not against.

      In favor.

      But we, the people who don't have to be bused, because we already have a neighborhood school, will decide for you poor folks.

      We value and want to keep our "integrated" schools!

  7. If 76% of the voters

    If 76% of the voters in the 5th Ward had voted Yes, the referendum would have passed.  Why didn't the passion of the public forums translate into actual votes? 


  8. A child of busing

    I didn't go to school in Evanston, but I am a parent of a District 65 student. I went to school in California and I was bused to a majority white school in the late 80's.

    I am glad I got to opportunity to go school with different races and it helped prepare me for the real world. Yes there were drawbacks to the half-an-hour bus ride. But when I did go to college, I was better prepared than some of my African American peers that went to all black schools. They experienced a culture shock when attending a college with a majority of whites.

    Also I  find it sad that the school board put the improvements of Nichols and Haven with the issue of the 5th Ward school. Now the needed improvements for our existing schools are not be made or the school district may do limited redistricting.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *