Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Turnout in Sunday's elections doomed a proposal to separate Venice from the mainland borough of Mestre, foiling referendum supporters who wanted to undo the 93-year union.
Even though 66 percent of voters agreed with splitting central Venice from Mestre, the turnout of 22 percent of eligible voters made the election invalid. At least 50 percent of the voters had to take part in the referendum to make the election results count.
The election was the latest failed attempted to separate Venice from being governed separately from Mestre. Voters rejected such proposals in 1979, 1989 and 1994. A fourth referendum was defeated because of low turnout in 2003.
Supporters of separation have long argued Venice, a worldwide tourist attraction with its urban canals and Renaissance architecture, faces much different issues than the largely residential and industrial mainland of Mestre. The two were lumped together as one municipality in 1926.
"We were expecting a much better result," said Marco Gasparinetti, leader of Gruppo 25 Aprile, which called for Venice separation. "We'll now take some time to reflect to understand what we can do going forward for the good of our city."
Another major concern is Venice's population, which has fallen dramatically from 175,000 in the early 1900s to 55,000 today.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro and other officials had voiced opposition to the vote and called for the public to stay away from voting. Mestre politician Nicola Pellicani said voters can make changes through mayoral elections instead of the extreme of splitting Venice from Mestre.