By the end of this week, residents of Belfast, Belmont, Islesboro, Northport, Lincolnville and Waldo should know who their county commissioner will be for the next four years.

That’s because a recount in the race between Don Berry, the Republican incumbent from Belmont, and Betty Johnson, the Democratic challenger from Lincolnville, has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Department of Public Safety headquarters on Commerce Drive in Augusta.

The contest between Berry and Johnson has been a nail-biter ever since the late-night hours of Election Day, Nov. 2, blurred into the early-morning hours of Nov. 3. Preliminary results from the six-town district — which, in the case of Belfast, included the numbers from the paper tapes produced by the voting machines — seemed to show Berry winning by four votes.

Then the hand-counted votes, those that had been rejected by the optical ballot scanners, were factored in. Initially, that final tally showed Johnson jumping to a district-wide lead of more than 95 votes. The difference came substantially from Belfast’s Ward 5, where Johnson’s totals jumped by 122 votes — from 183 to 305 — after the hand-counted ballots had been factored in.

After some review, though, Belfast officials determined Johnson’s final tally in Ward 5 should have been 205. That was enough of a change to apparently hand the victory back to Berry, by the meager margin of five votes.

Then, as we reported last week, 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. That recount, which started Friday, Nov. 5, concluded early the following week.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the state certified the results of that recount — which put Johnson back in the lead by one vote over Berry. Lastly, seven ballots from military personnel and other residents living overseas — ballots which, for the first time, were processed centrally by the state, rather than by municipalities — were factored in. As they were all in Johnson’s favor, the challenger saw her lead over Berry increase to a total of eight votes. That’s where things have stood since Nov. 9.

Looking at all of the times the number of ballots cast for each candidate has changed, each candidate could have claimed victory (even if only for a few hours, in some cases) on two separate occasions. With the exception of whichever candidate comes out on the losing end of the equation Nov. 18, and perhaps that candidate’s supporters, as well, it will likely be a relief for everyone who has been following the race to have an official outcome.

That said, it has been an exciting contest to follow, and not just for those of us in the news business (though it has given us plenty to write about, as evidenced by this editorial). Our Waldo town correspondent, Jennifer Hill, wrote this week about her daughter, Waldo resident Ena Lupine, who is currently living in France.

Hill said her daughter cast one of the seven ballots from people currently living outside of the district, and that Lupine was impressed when she heard that her ballot had — unofficially, as of this writing — helped Johnson to victory: “Oh my God! That’s me! I tipped the vote!”

“It is,” wrote Hill, in her Waldo column this week, “a lesson in the importance of voting that we can all enjoy.”

We agree with that. Other races at the local level have proved it in recent years, and regardless of the outcome of the Berry vs. Johnson race, this contest will prove it, too: every vote counts. We’re glad the ballots are being recounted one more time in such a close race — the closest one in the state, according to information from the Secretary of State’s office — and we look forward to learning the results of the Nov. 18 recount in Augusta.

Check out our Web site ( later in the day Nov. 18 to learn the outcome of that recount — if the recounts that have been conducted so far are any indication, we should know by 5 p.m. that day what the official count is.

And speaking of every vote counting, here’s something interesting we learned in the aftermath of Election Day this year. Few election seasons pass without some mention of dead people on the voting rolls. In the best case, purging registration records is an ongoing administrative issue for municipal officials. At worst, the lingering names present an opportunity for unscrupulous political agents who would stuff the ballot box.

Neither appeared to be the case in Belfast Nov. 2, when an observant poll worker recognized the name of someone recently deceased on the sealed envelope of an absentee ballot. Officials at the polling site examined the ballot. As far as they could tell, the voter had prepared her absentee ballot early, signed, sealed and delivered it, then died before Election Day. But should the vote be counted or discarded?

City Clerk Denise Beckett said the scenario came up at a conference with the secretary of state in September, but after the discovery of the posthumous ballot, she called the state office again, just to be sure. Her suspicions were confirmed: the vote counted.