WATERVILLE — Democrat Mike Morris prevailed in Thursday’s recount of the Ward 1 City Council election, defeating Republican Catherine Weeks by just two votes.

The result of the recount was 347-345, with one ballot set aside as disputed and 28 blank.

“It’s an important process and I’m happy it worked out the way that it did,” Morris said. “I had every faith in (City Clerk Patti Dubois) and the process. Now the work begins, and it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m looking forward to it.”

Weeks, meanwhile, said she still will be pursuing a complaint with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices, alleging that a flyer anonymously distributed two days before the election hurt her in the results.

“What happened on that Sunday night obviously affected what has happened today,” Weeks said. “I could have run a Hillary (Clinton) campaign like they did, but no, I wouldn’t do that.”

The ethics commission is scheduled to look at the complaint Nov. 28, at which point the commissioners will decide whether it warrants an investigation.

The original tally in the Ward 1 race was 346-342 with Morris winning.

Dubois said it is normal for a recount tallied by humans to differ slightly from the results produced by a machine on election night, which is why the recount process can be important for close votes.

Thursday’s recount was held at the Waterville police station. Counting was done by an equal number of representatives selected by each candidate. The counters for Weeks were Mark Andre, of Oakland; Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro; and Waterville resident Julian Payne. Counting for Morris were Claude Francke, former chairman of the Waterville Democratic Committee; Karen Kusiak, of Fairfeld; and Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville.

Dubois estimated the expense at $100 to cover the cost of bringing in a handful of election clerks for about two hours.

The city also is scheduled to recount the vote on a referendum on whether to ban plastic shopping bags from large stores at 9 a.m. Friday at the police station.

It’s likely more than 160 challenged ballots could come into play in that recount, and the vote could be sent to court to determine the outcome.

Nearly all of the challenged ballots were cast by Colby College students and were challenged on grounds that voter registrations were completed using mailing addresses rather than physical addresses.

Dubois said she did not have an answer Thursday as to whether the ballots would be considered valid if students did not register properly but are able to prove residency.

In the meantime, she said, letters have gone out to those whose ballots have been challenged, asking them to come to City Hall to show proof of residency and correct their voter registration.

Some Colby students and others have called the move to challenge ballots — which was started by Oakland Republican Mark Andre and a group of Waterville voters — an effort at voter suppression, though the Maine secretary of state last week called the situation “really a misunderstanding” about the registration process.

Noa Gutow-Ellis, a senior at Colby whose ballot is among those that were challenged, also said Thursday the situation is a misunderstanding, though that’s not the way it has been addressed by Mayor Nick Isgro.

Gutow-Ellis said Colby students want to vote correctly and criticized the mayor for calling their integrity into question, referring to a Facebook post Isgro made Thursday about Friday’s recount.

“Friends, right now, political insiders and special interest groups — including people who do not live in Waterville — are lobbying Our City to retroactively change the voter rolls in order to conceal mysterious voter registrations that illegally list P.O. boxes for a physical address,” Isgro wrote. “This lobbying is an attempt to generate their desired outcome on the referendum to ban reusable plastic bags. Do you think this is moral or ethical?”

“I think it’s really misleading for the mayor to be playing into accusations of, ‘This wasn’t an election of integrity,’ when all these students have been voting this way for multiple elections, including when the margins were even thinner,” Gutow-Ellis said. “For example, during the (mayoral) recall in June there was never any cry of, ‘Are people voting who shouldn’t be?’

“I acknowledge this was a lack of oversight on perhaps all of our parts with the P.O. boxes, but why is it that only after losing an election it’s a problem?”

Dubois has said for years Colby students have voted with their mailing addresses as registrations, but the question was not raised until recently by Andre, who at the time was campaigning for a legislative seat whose district includes Colby College.

The construction of a new downtown residence also brought up the fact that some students are now living in a different ward and legislative district than in years past.

Gutow-Ellis said she went to City Hall on Thursday to correct her voter registration, but said there is a lot of confusion among students, especially with the pending recount, about whether their votes will count.

“Questions of morality and ethics have been brought up twice in regards to this election and specifically to Colby students voting,” Gutow-Ellis said. “I wonder why that is such an issue. It’s been very frustrating and confusing to be a student voting in Waterville right now.”

Lily Herrmann, chairwoman of the Waterville Democrats and a Colby student, declined to comment on the challenged ballots Thursday.

“I’m focusing right now on this recount,” she said, referring to the Ward 1 race.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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