Mitt Romney’s razor-thin margin of victory in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses Tuesday has been called into dispute.

A southern Iowa supporter of Texas Rep. Ron Paul has filed a notarized statement claiming former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the real winner. Edward L. True has informed the Republican Party of Iowa there was a 20-vote error in the caucus results from Appanoose County.

According to True, the number of votes Romney received from Washington Wells Precinct in Appanoose County was inflated by 20 when recorded by the state GOP.

True said he helped count the votes and kept a record of the outcome to post to the Ron Paul Facebook pages. He noticed the error when he looked at the state GOP website.

If his claim is accurate, then Santorum would be the winner with 30,007 votes to 29,995, rather than 30,015, for Romney.

Santorum, campaigning Thursday in New Hampshire, told the Huffington Post he was “not surprised to hear” that Romney’s vote total might have been overcounted.

“We were ahead and they told us that 20 votes were undercounted for Romney and that’s what changed it,” Santorum said. “We will see what happens.”

In the meantime, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Iowa said True is neither a precinct captain nor a county party leader and, according to what she told KCCI-TV in Des Moines, “has no business talking about election results.”

She said Thursday that the party will have no further comment until the county-by-county results are certified, which could take a couple of weeks.

True, who said he hopes the discrepancy is a simple mistake, said he was told the same by the Appanoose County GOP chairman and when he contacted the party headquarters.

State Party Chairman Matt Strawn did not respond immediately to a request for a comment.

If true, the error changes little in terms of the race for the Republican presidential nomination beyond bragging rights.

“This will make Iowa look a little foolish in the eyes of the rest of the country which already questions the seriousness of the caucuses,” Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford told KCCI. “But in terms of Santorum’s results here, the caucuses have made him a player in presidential politics and if he should nudge ahead of Gov. Romney for the final certified result that’s really not going to make any significant difference at this point.”

The real damage, if the error is confirmed, is that other state Republicans parties — many both critical and envious of Iowa’s lead-off role in the nomination process — could use the error to attack the integrity of process.

The party concedes precinct leaders have wide latitude in how votes are cast and counted. Almost as soon as caucuses were adjourned Tuesday, there has been discussion about the various methods used to cast and count ballots in the non-binding straw poll of caucus-goers’ preferences for a nominee.

 

 

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