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UPDATE (1:09 p.m.): Iowa GOP Head Declares Santorum Winner, Sort Of

The state GOP has certified that results changed in 131 Iowa precincts from Caucus night and missing ballots in eight precincts weren't counted, meaning the true winner of the Iowa Caucus will never be known.

(Updated 1:09 p.m.) As the messy final vote count of the Iowa Caucus came in this morning, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn initially refused to declare a winner.

He even said it's not his job (even though he stood before the nation at the end of the Iowa Caucus to declare Mitt Romney the winner). 

Strawn seems to be changing course and giving the nod to Rick Santorum, who came out on top of the certified, yet incomplete final vote. Still, it's something less then a definitive declaration of victory.

"There is no question in our mind that the winner of the certified vote totals was Rick Santorum. Those are the numbers as certified during the two week required certification period," Strawn told reporters at a news conference at GOP headquarters in Des Moines today.

The final count includes 1,766 precincts. The problem is there are 1,774 precincts in Iowa, which means eight are not included.

"We had 8 precincts that we were unable, that did not submit any form of documentation on what happened in the precinct on caucus night," Strawn said.

Strawn defended the process in Iowa.

"First thing you need to keep in mind is that this is almost an entirely volunteer, grassroots process. That's one of the strengths of Iowa, is this is an election not run by state offices," Strawn said. "Staff did four times the amount of caucus training than before."

Strawn Proud of Caucus Process

He added, "I'm proud of the caucus process. I'm proud that we have 1000s of volunteers around the state that make the caucus process work. It's the first time ever on caucus night to be able to report 100 percent of vote totals from precincts reporting in."

Strawn said in the future they should put in new reporting systems.

"Whether it's a state-run or volunteer-run election, when you have an election within hundreths of percentage points, there is always a possibility that human error comes into play," he said.

Previous reporting

(Updated 11:54 a.m.) Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn told a small group of reporters Thursday that he cannot declare a definitive winner of the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses.

While it's not his place to do that, Strawn said, "There's no question in my mind that Rick Santorum is the winner of the certification process."

"Despite the most diligent efforts of our staff," Strawn said, they were unable to obtain votes from eight precincts in various parts of the state. "Our staff did everything humanly possible to obtain the certified votes."

The vote totals are accurate Strawn said, citing an example of an error in Fayette County where there were two instances of extra keystrokes as votes were tallied. With the certification process to review all vote, those errors were fixed, Strawn said, proving that the Caucus system is reliable and works.

(Updated 10:54 a.m.) The Republican Party of Iowa has identified the eight precincts that will not be counted in the 2012 Iowa Caucus, but is refusing to explain why.

Ryan Gough, GOP spokesman, said he will not address why or how precincts were missing. For an explanation of why those precincts' paperwork certifying the vote wasn't turned in, we have to call each precinct chair, he told Patch this morning.

The certified Iowa Caucus vote count released by Iowa GOP this morning places Rick Santorum in front of Mitt Romney, who was originally declared the winner. However, there were irregularities in 131 of the 1,774 precincts, and missing ballots in eight precincts weren't counted, according to state party officials. 

As such, no winner is being declared.

The missing precincts are as follows:

• Cerro Gordo County’s Mason City Ward 2, Precinct 3
• Emmet County’s Estherville Ward 2
• Franklin County’s Geneva-Reeve
• Lee County’s Fort Madison 4A
• Lee County’s Fort Madison 4B
• Lee County’s Franklin-Cedar-Marion
• Lee County’s Washington-Green Bay-Denmark
• Pocahontas County’s Center-South Roosevelt-North Lincoln

Craig Robinson, the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, had strong comments about the miscues on his Twitter feed.

"Matt Strawn should be removed as RPI Chairman for refusing to declare Santorum the winner. The votes are either certified or they are not," he Tweeted.

And, also:

"I’m appalled at how the Republican Party of Iowa is spinning its certification. A Black Eye for the caucuses."

Others are more forgiving.

Mike Mahaffey, a Montezuma lawyer and former chairman of the Iowa GOP, said some human error is to be expected, and when the election is so close it gets noticed. Voters who's votes weren't counted have a right to be angry, but the narrative in the GOP presidential nomination race wouldn't have changed because of it and it doesn't change anything now.

"The problem is it was just so doggone close. When you have this, you are going to have human error. It's just going to happen," Mahaffey told Patch.

Previous coverage:

(Updated 10:06 a.m.) Rick Santorum garnered 34 more votes than Mitt Romney to finish first in the Iowa caucuses, but missing results from several precincts apparently means that nobody will know who truly won the Jan. 3 vote.

Still the Pennsylvania Senator is declaring victory.

"This latest defeat of Governor Romney in Iowa is just the beginning, and Rick Santorum is committed to continuing the fight as the clear, consistent conservative voice in this race," a statement from his campaign said.

In perhaps the biggest debacle in Iowa's Caucus history, an unknown number of votes will never be counted.

Some party insiders say Iowa Republicans have some work to do to restore confidence in the Iowa Caucus.

"(Republican Party of Iowa) may have to do some work to instill confidence in the process, but I think most will still trust it," said Amanda Freel, a research analyst for the Iowa Republican House Caucus. "Without electronic counting, when two candidates are that close, there are bound to be problems. However, I don't expect that to happen every year and in the long run, RPI can learn from this and make the caucus better next time."

Freel said the people at the precinct level "dropped the ball," and party officials shouldn't be blamed. She said the party should examine what went wrong in order to develop a strong plan. Still, Freel said, she believes the Iowa Caucus should remain in the hands of the parties rather than turn it over to state election officials.

To this point, party officials have remained mum. They put out a news release with the results at about 8 a.m., but the doors to their office remained locked as of 10 a.m. to keep out reporters.

The final tally for the Iowa Caucus was formally released early this morning by the Iowa Republican party, which controls the voting and reporting of results across the state, unlike primaries in other states.

The Republican Party’s final, certified vote totals represent 1,766 of the state’s 1,774 caucus precincts, and reflect a record-breaking 121,503 Iowans who participated, according to a news release just issued.

The final tally gives former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum a win with 29,839 ballots over 29,805 for former Massachusetts Gov. Romney.

Certified vote totals were unavailable for eight of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. Full, certified vote totals per precinct are available online at www.iowagop.org.

Romney had been declared the winner by eight votes in the wee hours of the morning following the Jan. 3 caucuses. Today’s new, revised and certified numbers: 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney. The turnout: 121,503.

“It will be a story and Santorum will seize upon it, but it won’t change the current political narrative,” John Stineman, an Iowa Republican operative, told the Register.

Romney followed his Iowa performance with a win in New Hampshire a week later. South Carolina holds its primary Saturday.

Normally, the process is a formality, but not this year. The Iowa Caucus was held on Jan. 3 and ended with between declared winner Mitt Romney and runner-up Rick Santorum.

Iowa's 99 counties had 14 days from the caucus to submit a Form E document from each of the caucus precincts within the county. The document is the official record of the presidential preference vote in each of Iowa's 1,774 precincts its vote totals. That was due at 5 p.m. today, Jan. 18. 

In a news release sent out on Wednesday afternoon, Strawn announced party officials have been working throughout the day to help counties meet the deadline. 
  
The timeline is as follows:

The Iowa GOP will publicly release the certified vote totals at 8:15 a.m., Thursday. The certified Form E documents will then be made available for inspection by presidential campaign representatives at 9 a.m. at the Iowa GOP headquarters in Des Moines. The certified Form E documents will then be made available for inspection by members of the news media starting at 11 a.m.

Since the caucus, at least one caucus night volunteer came forward to say his counties votes were miscounted. The difference wouldthe winner, he said. Another there were flaws in some of the certified reports being submitted. It remains a possibility even with the certified results, we may never know the real winner.

However, the vote was so close, it is a virtual tie. It's likely of little consequence if the first and second spot shifts. By now, most political watchers are focused on South Carolina, which has its primary on Saturday.

Romney's strength was largely in the center of the state, in Polk, Dallas and Story counties, where he won handily over Santorum and Paul.

Iowa's Caucus results have historically been a game-changer for some candidates, and the momentum from an announced Iowa "victory," however slight, certainly boosted Romney's standing in the GOP.

Our Earlier Reporting

Normally, the process is a formality, but not this year. The Iowa Caucus was held on Jan. 3 and ended with between declared winner Mitt Romney and runner-up Rick Santorum.

Iowa's 99 counties had 14 days from the caucus to submit a Form E document from each of the caucus precincts within the county. The document is the official record of the presidential preference vote in each of Iowa's 1,774 precincts its vote totals. 

In a news release sent out on Wednesday afternoon, Strawn announced party officials have been working throughout the day to help counties meet the deadline. 
 
The timeline is as follows:

The Iowa GOP will publicly release the certified vote totals at 8:15 a.m., Thursday. The certified Form E documents will then be made available for inspection by presidential campaign representatives at 9 a.m. at the Iowa GOP headquarters in Des Moines. The certified Form E documents will then be made available for inspection by members of the news media starting at 11 a.m.

Since the caucus, at least one caucus night volunteer came forward to say his county's votes were miscounted. The difference wouldthe winner, he said. Another there were flaws in some of the certified reports being submitted. It remains a possibility even with the certified results, we may never know the real winner.

However, the vote was so close, it is a virtual tie. It's likely of little consequence if the first and second spot shifts. By now, most political watchers are focused on South Carolina, which has its primary on Saturday.

Shelly Reed Thieman January 19, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I am embarrassed by this news. C'mon, Iowa!
Jonathan Gems January 19, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Going into the election, the polls showed Ron Paul had more votes than all the other candidates combined. He was clearly going to win. The GOP leadership don't want Ron Paul so they corrupted the election process. Iowans deserve better than this.
Deb Belt January 19, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Jonathan: Are you an Iowa caucus-goer? Did you see misbehavior firsthand that night?

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