MACHIAS, Maine — Only a single vote separated the two front-runners in Monday’s election for a single selectman’s seat, prompting a recount. That recount is set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, at the town office.

Three men ran for the position, vacated when longtime Selectman Norman Nelson died in December 2010.

The candidates and initial vote tallies are:

— Cony Upton, 60, owner of the former Machias Cleaners and Laundry, 54 votes.

— Stephen Smith, 57, former selectman and owner of Smitty’s Trading Post, 53 votes.

— Edward Pellon, 75, former selectman and state representative and owner of Pellon Co., a local commercial development and construction firm, 39 votes.

Smith made the formal, written request for a recount to town clerk Sandra Clifton on Tuesday. State law gives the town five days to conduct the recount.

Smith said Tuesday afternoon that the situation is complicated because three of his supporters, all American citizens, speak limited English. He said one of the three came to the town office to obtain absentee ballots for himself and his two relatives at about 3 p.m., a full hour before absentee ballots were closed.

Smith said the voter was confused about filling out the voter registration cards and the absentee ballots and which would be counted as votes.

Smith said both he and the town clerk are unsure if all three absentee ballots were counted.

“They did not ask for an interpreter,” Smith said. He said it appears that only two of the three votes may have been counted but that it is unclear and will be clarified at the recount.

“I do not intend to ask for a new election because these three were confused,” Smith said. “We’ll just look at that as a learning experience. But if the recount shows a tie, there will definitely be a runoff election.”