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Questions over vote count put Iowa caucuses result in doubt

The outcome of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses was thrown into question Thursday after reports of a discrepancy in the vote count in one rural precinct that could swing the result in Rick Santorum's favor.

It wasn't until well after midnight Wednesday morning that the Iowa Republican Party announced that Mitt Romney had won the narrowest of victories over Santorum -- just eight votes out of more than 120,000 cast in the statewide GOP gatherings.  State party chairman Matt Strawn noted at the time that a certified tally would not come for two more weeks.

On Thursday, Edward True of Moulton, Iowa, filed an affidavit saying that Romney's reported total in the caucus he attended overstated his support by 20 votes, the Daily Iowegian reported.

True, who said he was one of three people who helped count ballots, said Romney only received two votes -- not the 22 reported on the Iowa Republican Party's website. He says Santorum had actually won the precinct, winning 21 of the 53 total votes.

If True's claim is accurate, an eight-vote Romney win would become a 12-vote Santorum win.

In a statement released late Thursday night, Strawn said that during the party's certification process, it "will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation" that surfaces, out of respect for the candidates.

"That said, Iowa GOP officials have been in contact with Appanoose County Republican officials tonight and do not have any reason to believe the final, certified results of Appanoose County will change the outcome of Tuesday's vote," Strawn said.

The incident is sure to raise new questions about the quirky process that typically begins the presidential nominating contest. The Republican caucuses, run by the party and not the state, are essentially a popularity contest among those who attend; at some caucus sites there are no paper records of the vote.

There is also no official provision for a recount because no delegates are at stake.

The next nominating contest, the New Hampshire primary, is a state-run election that includes safeguards to ensure an accurate count.

Santorum, asked about the report during an interview on Fox News Channel's "On The Record," said he was told of issues with the count in a different precinct that would add 21 votes to Romney's tally.

"There will be, without question given the lateness of the hour and the hecticness that comes with turning in these numbers there will be changes," Santorum said. "That doesn't really matter to me. This was a tie."

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