WINSLOW — An opponent of the $8.1 million school renovation bond that passed by 56 votes on June 12 has filed a recount with the town as a way to inspect the 194 ballots where the bond question was left blank.

Winslow resident Phil St. Onge, who has been a vocal challenger of the bond and the previous $10.3 million bond, which was rejected last November, turned in a petition with 163 signatures from residents, which meets the threshold to initiate a recount process.

Town Manager Mike Heavener said the signatures on the petition have been verified, and now it is a matter of picking a date and time for the recount to take place.

St. Onge said he does not think the recount will bridge the 881-825 margin by which the bond passed. However, since there is no provision to allow residents to inspect ballots following an election, St. Onge said a recount is the only way to allow him to review the blank ballots.

For the election, the town printed the bond question on one side of the ballot and the education budget question on the other side of the ballot, which St. Onge believes is the reason for so many blank ballots.

“I can’t fathom 194 people didn’t want to vote on the bond,” St. Onge said in a phone interview. “Maybe 10 or 20 (blank ballots) is typical, but not 194.”

According to St. Onge, election clerks posted signs telling voters to flip their ballots over apparently after residents failed to vote on both issues. He believes most of blank ballots were turned in at that time.

The education budget question, which was printed on the other side of the ballot, also had 41 blank votes.

Heavener said a clerk did put up a sign to remind voters to flip over their ballots. Additionally, Heavener said clerks also were telling voters to fill out both sides of the ballot when they handed them out. There also was a note on the bottom of the ballot that it was double-sided.

“If there is a procedure out there, he has the right to that, but I don’t expect it to change the outcome of the election,” Joel Selwood, chairman of the school board, said in a phone interview Wednesday. Selwood added that he was not surprised St. Onge was initiating a recount as it was obviously not the outcome St. Onge wanted.

St. Onge, who has hired former state legislator Joshua Tardy as an attorney, also plans to file a freedom of access request to obtain the photo images of the ballots, which are taken each time a ballot is inserted into the voting machine.

He hopes the images are sent chronologically, and if that’s the case, he believes a large number of the blank ballots were turned in before the signs were put up before noon.

St. Onge hopes he will be able to correlate the time the blank ballots were turned in and the time the sign was put up at the polling place. He said it eventually would be up to the Town Council to decide whether to invalidate the election.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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