Final Count in Iowa: Santorum up 34 Votes over Romney--8 Precincts Will Never be Counted

January 18, 2012 - 6:55 PM

romney, santorum

Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Santorum. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney apparently did not win the Iowa caucuses after all. Former Sen. Rick Santorum -- who trailed by a mere 8 votes in the initial tally -- actually beat Romney by 34 votes, according to the certified vote totals.

The Des Moines Register broke the story at 7 a.m. Thursday, a few hours before the Iowa Republican Party planned to release the final numbers.

But -- in another twist -- the final numbers are not reliable, because eight Iowa precincts could not have their totals certified, the Register reported. A Republican party official told the newspaper, "It's a split decision."

The certified numbers are as follows: Rick Santorum ended up with 29,839 votes -- 168 fewer than the 30,007 he had on caucus night. Romney ended up with 29,805 votes -- 210 fewer than the 30,015 initially posted after the balloting.

But the Register says results from eight precincts are irretrievably missing and will never be certified, so we'll never know the true winner. Officials with the Iowa Republican Party told the newspaper they discovered "inaccuracies" in 131 precincts.

The final vote totals are as follows:

Rick Santorum: 29,839
Mitt Romney: 29,805
Ron Paul: 26,036
Newt Gingrich: 16,163
Rick Perry: 12,557
Michele Bachmann: 6,046
Jon Huntsman: 739

Others: No preference, 147; Herman Cain, 45; Sarah Palin, 23; Buddy Roemer, 17; Fred Karger, 10; Gary Johnson, 8; Donald Trump, 5; Paul Ryan, 3; Condoleeza Rice, 2; Roy Moore, 2; Ben Lange, 2; Mike Huckabee, 2; Rudy Giuliani, 2; Tim Pawlenty, 2; Scott Walker, 1; John McCain, 1; Ralph Nader, 1; Pat Buchanan, 1; Robert D. Ray, 1; Jared Blankenship, 1.

Transparent, but low tech

All 1,774 precincts in Iowa hold a Republican caucus. The Republican Party of Iowa describes the caucuses as among the most "transparent, grassroots-based political activities in the country." It's also low-tech.

After listening to speakers plug the various candidates, registered Republicans attending the various caucuses are handed blank sheets of paper. Voters write the name of their preferred candidate on the paper, which is then collected. Every vote is hand-counted by the caucus chair and secretary in front of the caucus. The results are recorded on an official form (Form e) provided by the Republican Party of Iowa and are announced to the caucus.

A "caucus reporter" is chosen to report the results to the Republican Party of Iowa. And within fourteen days of the caucus, certified results are released, breaking down results for all caucus votes that were cast by precinct.

The Des Moines Register reports that Form Es are missing -- and may never have existed -- for eight precincts.  And the paper says more than 100 of the Form Es didn’t comply with the party’s instructions. In some cases, the forms were not signed by the caucus chair and secretary; and in other cases, the vote counts were not recorded on official forms.

The vote certification also was complicated by party officials having to hunt down the vote totals from dozens of missing precincts.

More to come. CNSNews.com’s earlier story is below:


(CNSNews.com) – The American public will know who the true winner of the Iowa caucus is on Jan. 19, this Thursday, more than two weeks after the actual caucus occurred, according to a statement the Republican Party of Iowa chairman, Matt Strawn, provided to CNSNews.com.

The outcome of the Iowa caucus election came under scrutiny after allegations surfaced that primary contender Mitt Romney, who apparently beat counterpart Rick Santorum by 8 votes, had mistakenly received 20 votes.

The extra 20 votes for Romney came from the Washington-Wells precinct of Iowa’s Appanoose County, giving Romney a total of 22 votes from that area when in reality he only earned 2 votes.

“The Iowa GOP will publicly release the certified vote totals of the 2012 Republican Caucuses at 8:15 a.m. (CST) on Thursday, January 19,” read the statement, which was provided in an e-mail to CNSNews.com on Wednesday. “The certified ‘Form E’ precinct documents will then be made available for inspection by presidential campaign representatives at 9:00 a.m. (CST) at the Republican Party of Iowa Headquarters in Des Moines. The certified ‘Form E’ precinct documents will then be made available for inspection by members of the news media starting at 11:00 a.m. (CST).”

Iowa's 99 counties are required by Iowa GOP rules to submit a “Form E” document from each of the caucus precincts within the county by the end of a 14-day period following the vote.

Iowa caucuses

Voters debate during a caucus at precinct 42 near Smithland, Iowa on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

“The Form E document is the official record of the presidential preference vote in each of Iowa's 1,774 precincts,” explains the statement. “The 14-day period sets close of business (5 p.m. CST), Wednesday, January 18 as the deadline for county Republican officials to submit the Form E documents.”

Counties and precincts in Iowa are being assisted by the Iowa GOP staff so they can meet today’s 5 p.m. deadline.

Richard Taylor, the Republican co-chair of Appanoose County, has confirmed that Romney only received 2 votes from his precinct, not 22, as the Iowa GOP reported.

When asked to comment on how the discrepancy could make Santorum the actual winner because he reportedly only lost by 8 votes, Taylor told CNSNews.com, “Well, if you’re going by that math and that math alone then, yes, that’d be correct, but who’s to say that there weren’t other mistakes somewhere else?”

Taylor echoed the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, Matt Strawn, in saying that the miscounts will not change the original outcome of Romney being the winner. However, Taylor did not completely dismiss the idea of Santorum taking first place from Romney.

“If [Santorum] won, he’s got my congratulations but I’m not, I’m not going to say that one person of the GOP is wrong and that I’m right,” Taylor told CNSNews.com. “I’m not going to say that because that might be a possibility that I’d be wrong. All I know is that in something like this, that on the first count, be it hand counts or, or we get a phone call or anything like that, mistakes get made. But when the process is allowed to complete itself, I think that, in the end, that the truth will come out and odds are that it’s not going to be much different than what it was to begin with.”

Although Taylor would not comment on the “other mistakes,” Chad Olsen, the executive director of the Republican Party in Iowa told the Des Moines Register that both Romney and Santorum mistakenly received votes, without citing the specific numbers.

“It happened in both directions. It’s been completely random,” Olsen said, according to the Des Moines Register.

If Santorum is proven to be the winner, it will put a stain on Romney’s often-cited unprecedented accomplishment of winning Iowa and New Hampshire.

“The recount is going to be an actual hard count of the ballots that were turned in versus what one said on a telephone call,” said Taylor, “and a volunteer quite obviously double-tapped the number two on their computer. And since this is all a volunteer effort, I’d say that the math wasn’t double-checked before it was posted on this Web site and it was a simple error.”