Man, again with another of this... lets see...
This was discussed all the way several times already. Should we downvote questions when the OP didn't put any research effort into them?, Should we downvote duplicate questions?, Some closed questions should not be downvoted, just closed. Thoughts?, Poorly Written Questions - Is it okay to downvote? and there are more! Just see the "Related" bar at the right.
Ok, now answering your specific statements, and no, no tl;DR again this time:
I know how to search for questions and answers before I ask.
This was something discussed here, and majority tells that if you don't show us that you indeed researched we are in all right to downvote you for that reason.
Then someone comes along and gives me a down vote because they think it is a duplicate...
The person who downvoted could be another person, not necessarily the one that commented nor the one that flagged the question as duplicated, heck, it could be unicorns! Either way, you have no way to know who downvoted nor it reasons.
Although the supposed duplicate question did give me part of what I was looking for it in NO WAY answered the other part of my question as to how to safely remove unity!
If you asked two questions in a single post, is bound to happen. For that motive we have in the https://askubuntu.com/help/dont-ask and some other meta post that states that questions should only content 1 single question or at least, several questions that are streamlined, like "Why X happens and how to change it?". If you instead deleting the question have edited the part where it could get answered by the duplicated and/or wrote it more clear about what were you objectives and explain why the duplicated don't answer your question, it would have been reopened. Well, that answers your 3 first paragraphs which seems you saying the same thing over and over...
So my question now is what can I do to get my REPS back? I know I will get - reps at some point the longer I am here but for this it is wrong in my opinion!!!
Seems that you discovered that you can get the reputation back if you delete the question... PLEASE DON'T. You are more likely to fall into the Quality blocks for questions (I know users that are there) which prevents you from asking questions. The exact mechanism is not revealed but you will get there if enough of your questions get deleted/closed/downvoted, etc.
Also remember that:
- 1 downvote represents -2 reputation for the user, while 1 upvote represents +5 in questions and +10 in answers.
- If it got downvoted, it means that someone considered that something is wrong with your question (post), improve it! We would love to give upvotes to good questions (posts) so, make your question worth of them. If you don't I see a sad future for you.