Transparent count process may have revealed reporting error...
By Brad Friedman on 1/5/2012, 9:31pm PT  

[UPDATED mid-story with screenshots from True's original Facebook postings of his recorded results on caucus night, and UPDATED AGAIN at bottom with the affidavit True has filed, and a few additional details from GOP officials and elsewhere on the current status of results. UPDATED YET AGAIN at bottom after we spoke at length with True late this afternoon and after GOP county chair confirms True's numbers.]

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Thanks to the transparent, open counting process at Tuesday's night's Iowa GOP Caucuses, and a Ron Paul supporter who was paying close attention to the results, we may now be learning that Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney, actually won the "First-in-the-Nation" Iowa Caucuses this week.

According to a report tonight from television station KCCI NewsChannel 8 in Des Moines, Edward True, a supporter of Paul's says he participated in the counting at the Washington Wells caucus in Appanoose County and wrote down the results he witnessed there on a piece of paper which he posted to Facebook that night. Later, in comparing his totals to the precinct results made available on the Iowa GOP website [CSV version here], he noticed that Romney is shown as receiving 22 votes at that precinct, rather than the 2 that True recorded him as receiving that night at the caucus.

If True is correct, and if no other anomalies are discovered in the coming days, it would mean that Santorum will have won the Iowa Caucuses by 12 votes, rather than lost it to Romney by 8, as reported by the GOP in the early morning hours on Wednesday...

According to KCCI:

Edward True, 28, of Moulton, said he helped count the votes and jotted the results down on a piece of paper to post to his Facebook page. He said when he checked to make sure the Republican Party of Iowa got the count right, he said he was shocked to find they hadn't.
True said at his 53-person caucus at the Garrett Memorial Library, Romney received two votes. According to the Iowa Republican Party's website, True's precinct cast 22 votes for Romney.

"This is huge," True said. "It essentially changes who won."
True --- who said he's a Ron Paul supporter --- hopes it was a simple mistake.

"I imagine it's a good possibility that somebody instead of hitting 2 might have hit 22 by accident," True said. "I hope so."

But he said he won't stop talking about it until the state --- by his count --- gets the numbers right.

"Numbers that I personally witnessed being counted and assisted in counting and am certain are right," he said.

"The story on Romney getting extra votes as a result of a typo looks credible IMO," tweeted The New York Times' statistical wunderkind Nate Silver tonight. "Romney did very badly in other precincts in that county."

Indeed, according to the Iowa GOP's posted results, out of 13 caucuses in Appanoose County, Romney received double-digits at only one other caucus beside Washington Wells. He is said to have received 20 votes at Vermillion Douglas Sharon, but other than those two sites, Romney received just 45 at the other 11 caucus sites combined...

In KCCI's video report, reporter Amanda Lewis notes that True also points to a discrepancy in the number of voters at his caucus, in addition to one more question that The BRAD BLOG has been able to solve.

Here's their report:

As Lewis explains near the end of her report: "True said that there was one other mistake. The Iowa GOP reports there were a total of 79 votes cast at his caucus, but only 53 people attended that night, he said. He said 20 of the non-existent votes went to Romney, but he has no idea where they counted an additional 6."

Well, we've figured out where those "additional 6" seem to come from. True's hand-written tally [see graphic at right] fails to include former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer who, according to the GOP's numbers seen above, received 6 votes at the Washington Wells caucus. Those 6, plus the alleged extra 20 given to Romney, would bring the total number of votes to 79. That still fails to explain the difference, however, between True's assertion of 53 voters, versus the GOP's reported 79.

Also, the 6 votes for Roemer at the one precinct seem odd, as he is reported to have received just 31 votes across the entire state on Tuesday night. Other than the missing Roemer tally and the Romney discrepancy, all of True's numbers appear to match the GOP's.

We've not been able to find True's Facebook page as of yet, so can't confirm that he, in fact, posted those results there that night, but we'll presume for now that KCCI was able to confirm as much prior to their report. (Though why they couldn't find Roemer's 6 votes listed in the Iowa GOP totals --- which they even show in their video report --- is another matter.)

UPDATE: We have been able to find True's Facebook postings. His personal page is here. He posted his results on the night of the caucus at both the Des Moines for Ron Paul 2012 page (on Tuesday at 6:25p PT) and the SE Iowa for Ron Paul 2012 page (on Tuesday at 6:29p PT). Here are screenshots of those posts. NOTE: The timestamp shown on each is Pacific Time because we're in L.A.. Central Time in Iowa is 2 hours late :

On Tuesday morning, we shared some important advice from's Bev Harris, exhorting caucus-going election integrity advocates to "Use your cell phone to capture a photo or video of the local caucus result, as evidence."

"It doesn't matter what you say happened," noted Harris at the time, "only a photo or video matters. Compare this with the state party's report of your local caucus report to make sure it's the same."

True did compare the state party's results to his own, and that's where he says he found the apparent error. Unfortunately, he doesn't appear to have taken a cell phone photo of the caucus results report. (Though we don't know that for certain, as we've yet to make contact with him --- but hope he'll contact us if he reads this article! Update: We've now spoken with True and he did not, unfortunately, get a cell phone photo. More details on that conversation in the 1/6/12, 5:01pm PT UPDATE below.)

Two other quick points for now.

KCCI's Lewis reports: "A spokeswoman with the Iowa Republican Party said True is not a precinct captain and he's not a county chairperson so he has no business talking about election results. She also said the party would not be giving interviews about possible discrepancies until the caucus vote is certified."

If, in fact, Lewis' report there is accurate --- it does not appear to be a direct quote from the unnamed spokesperson in Lewis' written report --- it's extraordinarily offensive. True is owed an apology. He has every "business" in the world "talking about results" of an election that he voted in and even helped to count and oversee, and he ought to be thanked by the Iowa GOP for his careful note-keeping, if he is right, and that he's concerned enough to try and let the world know about the apparent error, even if he isn't.

Lastly, Lewis also interviews "KCCI Political Analyst" Dennis Goldford on camera in her report, who says that while a change in the results wouldn't be the "end of the world", it "will make Iowa look a little foolish in the eyes of the rest of the country."

No, Mr. Lewis, it won't. Or at least it shouldn't. Hopefully it help the rest of the country understand that it is because of the exceptionally transparent election processes that the Iowa GOP allows their voters to enjoy at their own caucuses --- where all are allowed to vote on hand-marked paper ballots which are immediately hand-counted publicly at the caucus site, with results announced before ballots are moved or results are called in to a central headquarters --- which may allow us to know that the announced "winner" on Caucus Night didn't actually win the election!

There will, undoubtedly, be others who were there that night who can confirm either True's numbers or the GOP's. Whichever numbers are ultimately confirmed --- thanks to the transparent processes that the GOP routinely fights against allowing elsewhere, for elections in which non-Republicans will be participating --- we will likely be able to arrive quickly at a conclusive and verifiable consensus as to who really won and who didn't.

If every other election was as transparent and accessible as the Iowa GOP caucus --- where the party itself, not the state, determines all of its own rules, which include no polling place Photo ID restrictions, and even allow for same-day registration and voting (both of which they've fought virulently against allowing in elections where Democrats will participate) --- we wouldn't be seeing election after election in this country where the supporters of the reported "loser" go away believing they've been robbed.

That there are so few questions about the results at this point, in an election so incredibly close (Either an 8 or 16 vote margin out of 122,000 votes cast! All tallied transparently in public, by hand, within an hour or two of the end of voting) is a model of Democracy's Gold Standard and should be emulated by the rest of the nation...if only the GOP would allow everyone else in the nation, or even in Iowa, to vote the way they allow their own voters to at the Iowa caucuses.

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UPDATE 1/6/12 12:31pm PT: True has filed a 2-page notarized affidavit [posted below] attesting to his account that Romney received just 2 votes at the Washington Wells precinct where he participated as one of three counters.

He also claims in the affidavit that after noticing the discrepancy in the GOP's reported results, he had "called Tony Siebert who had been nominated at our caucus to be in charge of our local caucus gathering" who read him the results from his own vote tally sheet and "confirmed my numbers, that Romney got 2 votes, not 22 at our local caucus." He also attests that GOP County Chairman, Lyle Brinegar also "confirmed my numbers" in a subsequent phone call.

This morning, the Des Moines Register confirmed that, indeed, Brinegar stands by the results as reported by True.

Again, this is the beauty of a full transparent system of precinct-based hand-counting. Others can confirm election night results independently. As True also writes in his affidavit that after counting at the caucus site, "The vote totals were then read aloud to all present," there are likely to be dozens of others who can confirm the caucus night tallies as well. None of this type of independent confirmation would be possible with computer tallies --- even with paper based optical-scan systems.

Adding to the obnoxious comment described in KCCI's orginal report, attributed to an unnamed "spokeswoman with the Iowa Republican Party" charging that True is "not a precinct captain and he's not a county chairperson so he has no business talking about election results," the Iowa GOP chair, Matt Strawn, has offered a similarly offensive statement, according to a report today by Rachel Rose Hartman at Yahoo News' "The Ticket".

"Out of respect to the candidates involved, party officials will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation during the two week process," Strawn is quoted as having said in his statement to the Des Moines Register.

Hartman, in turn, quotes True's response to the slurs, as posted on his Facebook page:

Dear Iowa GOP, I am a nominated delegate for my Precinct and the true winner from the vote count in my caucus was Santorum with 21 votes. I am not a person in a position controlled by you I am in a position to serve the interests of the people I was nominated by. The 1st Amendment of the Constitution gives me the right to speak up and make sure the numbers are correct and reported honestly.

Good for him. And if the GOP won't thank True for his dilligence, we will. Thank you, Mr. True.

Furthermore, in an updated report posted in a new video at the KCCI webpage, the news outlet reports that "GOP party officials are confident the winner of the Iowa Caucuses will not change."

Anchor Kevin Cooney says he spoke with Strawn, who told him that he was "in contact with Appanoose GOP leaders, and GOP officials are confident the final certified results from Appanoose County will not change the winner of the Iowa Caucuses." Cooney added that he was told the certified results will be available, "in about a week and a half." He also spoke again to True who confirmed that he is "100% certain positive" of his numbers.

Note the careful wording of Strawn's statement, however. He does not say that True is wrong, or that the Appanoose County numbers will not change, only that they "will not change the winner of the Iowa Caucuses."

That could be due to reports of other reporting errors in the GOP posted tallies. As Ian Millhiser at Think Progress reports in an update to his coverage of this story:

On Fox News’ On The Record tonight, Santorum said that he spoke with the head of the Iowa Republican Party, who told him that there was a separate counting error that incorrectly stripped 21 votes from Romney. Therefore, the two counting errors, according to Santorum, have largely offset themselves, although the final certification is yet to be completed.

We do not have details on that "separate counting error" Santorum is said to have referred to, though a report by James Q. Lynch of The Gazette notes that: "Late last night, The Gazette received a report of a discrepancy in the vote totals that were reported in the Illyria and Westfield townships in Fayette County. The report could not immediately be verified."

Whether those Fayette County discrepancies are the "offset[ing]" error Santorum refers to remains to be seen, but again, this type of independent verification is only possible thanks to the fact that there were thousands of eyeballs witnessing Tuesday's night's open hand-count tally of the paper ballots in Iowa. Any legitimate reports of mis-reporting of those numbers will be independently verifiable by any number of witnesses at each caucus site, none of which would be possible under a computer-count system where voters are forced to simply "trust" in either computer hardware or software, or in post-election recounts when the chain of custody and authenticity of ballots has already fallen into question.

Also, see New York Times' stats wiz Nathan Silver's report today. Based on a statistical analysis, Silver concludes again that True's report is quite possible accurate, and also notes that, for some reason, there are still some 8 different caucus sites showing no results at all in the GOP's reported numbers. Silver's conclusion: "For now, the caucuses are probably best thought of as still being too close to call."

UPDATE 1/6/12, 5:01pm PT: Just got off the phone with Edward True. I have absolutely no doubt that his story is accurate, and that Romney received 2, not 22 votes at his precinct. Furthermore, he tells me there "There was no votes for Roemer" at his site. So wherever those 6 votes came from, he cannot say. He does add that there were actually 54, not 53 votes at his site, but that "one of them had a name that nobody could understand, or it was something off the wall," so he hadn't included that in his 53 vote tally sheet. He's also been kicking himself that he didn't take a cell phone photo of the tally sheet, though believes one will come forward soon. In the meantime, he was also very happy to see that Appanoose GOP County Chair Lyle Brinegar has confirmed to the Des Moines Register that he, not the GOP, had the correct numbers.

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Here is True's 2-page affidavit filed yesterday, January 5th, 2012 [click each page to enlarge if needed]:

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