Commissioner race won by 2 votes in recount

Posted Nov. 19, 2010, at 12:32 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Democrat Betty Johnson of Lincolnville has won the race to become a Waldo County commissioner — by two votes.

The razor-thin margin of victory was determined Thursday during a recount of results from the general election held under the supervision of the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. After the recount, Johnson had 2,883 votes; her opponent, incumbent Republican Donald P. Berry Sr. of Belmont, had 2,881.

“A win is a win,” Johnson said Thursday evening. “I welcome it and am looking forward to going to the job. And the not knowing is over. I think that was the hardest part — you’d like to think you’re a winner, but you don’t dare.”

Berry, who has served for four years as the District 1 county commissioner, said he’s satisfied with the recount process.

“The system works, and that’s what it’s about,” he said. “That’s why we have the democracy we have.”

The close race has had a couple of twists. After the general election, an unofficial tally had Berry winning by five votes but when the Secretary of State’s Office added overseas and military ballots to the mix a few days later, Johnson was determined to have won by eight votes.

Both Johnson and Berry were present for the daylong recount, which was conducted at the Department of Public Safety headquarters in Augusta. Troopers with the Maine State Police collected the ballots and kept them stored in tamperproof metal containers that were closed with security seals and locks, according to a press release from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Deputy Secretary of State John Smith said that candidate volunteers are paired with a department staffer and then each counts the ballots, with disputed ballots set aside.

“In this case, the teams agreed on every single ballot for the commissioner’s race,” he said.

Smith said that there have been some close races in Maine historically, including a 2006 House race in Aroostook County that also was decided by a two-vote margin.

Berry said that nearly 400 voters who cast a ballot in Waldo County’s District 1 did not vote for the commissioner’s office.

“That’s a large number of people,” he said. “Maybe they did not see our names or maybe they just did not care to vote, period.”

However, Berry hastened to say that he did not use that as an excuse for the outcome.

“I believe I’ve done the job I was hired to do by the people of Waldo County,” he said. “I’m satisfied with that.”

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