The Maine Republican Party drew criticism over the weekend for declaring Mitt Romney the statewide winner without results from Washington County, where voters had planned to meet on the same day as the statewide announcement — Feb. 11 — but canceled the night before based on reports of a potential winter storm.

A press release, issued by the party on Saturday, downplayed the importance of Maine’s caucuses, describing them as a “beauty contest” in which “there are no national delegates ‘won’ or ‘bound’ to any Presidential candidate.”

The release described some caucuses as having “decided not to participate” in the poll, choosing instead to caucus after the statewide announcement. This was followed by the disclaimer that, “Their results WILL NOT be factored into this announcement after the fact.”

In a nutshell, tough luck Washington County.

And, as it turns out, most of Waldo County, where voters from 18 towns gathered for municipal caucuses in a countywide event held a week before the announcement, casting a total of 138 votes. In the official Maine GOP tallies, however, the results from all but one of those communities were given as a series of zeros below the name of each candidate, as though no one had voted.

Northport was the exception. The town participated in the countywide event and results consistent with those provided by the local organizer were listed in the statewide press release.

Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, a number of Maine’s 16 counties held countywide gatherings, where attendees collectively listened to various candidates, their representatives and other speakers but caucused as individual communities.

In some cases, results from those gatherings were included in the press release issued Saturday. Knox County, for example, held a countywide event on Feb. 4, the same day as Waldo County, and results from participating Knox County communities were included in the party’s official press release.

According to Mike Quatrano, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, and the person who issued the press release, the omission of the Waldo County votes was not a typo. Quatrano did not offer to review the results, but said simply that what appeared on the press release was what was counted by the party.

The GOP leader noted the deadline for local caucus organizers to submit results and chalked up the rows of zeroes after dozens of towns around the state, including 17 of the 18 that participated in the Waldo County event on Feb. 4, to either a lack of participation or a failure by organizers to submit results.

According to Raymond St. Onge, who organized the multi-town Waldo County gathering, neither was the case.

Speaking on Feb. 13, St. Onge said he submitted the results of the Feb. 4 caucuses to the party immediately after the event, which was held a week before the deadline, and said he didn’t realize that the votes were not factored in the statewide results.

“They had the numbers to count,” said St. Onge, referring to state party officials. “Why they didn’t include them, I don’t know the answer to that.”

According to figures supplied by St. Onge, Ron Paul came out the winner among the 18 towns that gathered on Feb. 4 with 43 votes, followed by Rick Santorum with 41.

Mitt Romney, who was declared the statewide winner in Maine by GOP officials, took third place with 35 votes, collectively, among the 18 towns. And Newt Gingrich, who several participants at the Feb. 4 event described as the only candidate who could stand up to Barack Obama, came in a distant fourth with 18 votes.

The towns that participated in the countywide caucus event were: Belfast, Belmont, Brooks, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Lincolnville, Monroe, Morrill, Northport, Prospect, Searsport, Swanville, Thorndike, Troy, Waldo and Winterport.

Five Waldo County towns, including Frankfort, Montville, Palermo, Stockton Springs and Unity held separate caucus events, the results of which were counted in the statewide results.

St. Onge noted that the tallies from the more than 100 total votes cast at the Feb. 4 countywide event wouldn’t have been enough to sway the final statewide outcome.

“But they would have changed the margin of victory,” he said.

Matt McDonald, chairman of the Belfast caucus committee told VillageSoup Feb. 14 that he personally called in Belfast’s results to the state GOP office but was told the party already had the figures. When the woman on the phone read those tallies back, McDonald said they showed Romney winning in Belfast, which he knew was not the case.

“I said, ‘Ma’am, I know you’re very busy but we publicly counted our votes here in Belfast,'” McDonald said, going on to note the discrepancies. “… As soon as she heard we had publicly counted she said, ‘Oh, I’ll be sure those numbers are changed.'”

When the official results were released, the line for Belfast contained neither the figures the state party official had quoted to McDonald on the phone nor the revised figures but a row of zeroes, suggesting no votes were cast in the city.

“I just want everyone’s vote counted,” said McDonald. “A lot of us voted for Ron Paul but out of the 22 Republicans who showed up that day, all of the votes should count, and that’s my concern.”