A state-mandated recount of a portion of ballots cast in Belfast, combined with seven overseas and military ballots, has tipped the narrow margin in the Waldo County Commissioners race in favor of Democratic challenger Betty Johnson. Incumbent Republican Donald Berry has requested a recount.

Unofficial results had Berry ahead by five votes in the district, which includes Belfast, Belmont, Islesboro, Lincolnville and Northport.

On Nov. 3, The Secretary of State’s office notified Belfast City Clerk Denise Beckett of some errors in the Belfast tallies and ordered her to reconvene the staff from each polling place to recount those ballots that were rejected by the optical ballot scanners. For all but the commissioner’s race, the recount, which started Friday, Nov. 5, amounted to a procedural matter — several numbers changed, but the outcomes remained solidly the same.

But the review of the so-called “hand count” ballots added enough votes to Johnson’s total to tip the balance in the commissioner’s race, putting her one vote ahead of Berry district-wide.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said her office also received seven ballots from overseas and military voters. All of these were for Johnson, giving her an eight-vote lead. Flynn said this election was the first in which overseas and military ballots were processed centrally by the state rather than by municipalities.

The Secretary of State’s Office made the tallies official Tuesday, Nov. 9, and notified the candidates, at which point, Flynn said, Berry requested a recount.

Flynn anticipated that the recount, which will be performed by state officials in Augusta, would be completed sometime after Nov. 17. Recounts of county elections happen after any state office recounts, of which Flynn said there were three scheduled and the potential for several others.

Speaking on Nov. 9, Berry confirmed that he had called for a recount, and said he was surprised the commissioner’s race was so close.

Berry said he believed his detractors used the controversy around the proposed Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Agency building against him. He also questioned the fact that all of the seven overseas and military ballots went to Johnson.

“I’m just disappointed. I’m disappointed in the people,” he said. “We’re getting a new sheriff’s office that isn’t costing them any more money, and we’re getting all these other things done.”