Wondering what the difference is between “it” and “that” in this paragraph

Voting is underway in Crimea’s controversial referendum. It is widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region from Ukraine to Russia, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West.

Voting is underway in Crimea’s controversial referendum. That is widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region from Ukraine to Russia, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West.

Taken from euronews.

My intuition is that: The word “it” does not nessecarily refer to “referendum” , but the word “that” directly refers to “referendum” . I mean when we use the word “that” in second paragraph, we actually make the second sentence reliant on the first sentence, whereas in the first paragraph, the second sentence starts with “It is widely expected…” is perhaps an independent, free-standing sentence. Am I right? Many thanks in advance.

Answer

That’s the subtlety of that and if. Both the words can be used to mean the thing that has been already described. But I’ll give my opinion.

When more than one thing is mentioned, it generally refers to the main subject of discussion. On the other hand, that emphasize on the last thing mentioned. This happens especially when the two sentences are not joined.

Compare:

I keep the tablet in the drawer. It is sometimes used by my daughter. (My kid uses the tab.)
I keep the tablet in the drawer. That is sometimes used by my daughter. (My daughter uses the drawer.)

This is the reason why you (and also I) feel that that refers to referendum.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : user5036 , Answer Author : Maulik V

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