(CNSNews.com) - How did eight precincts fail to turn in their vote totals in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses? "Well, those are questions for the volunteer chairs in those particular precincts," Matt Strawn, the head of the Iowa Republican Party, told Fox News on Thursday.
Because eight of Iowa's 1,774 precincts failed to report any vote totals at all, there is no way to tell who actually received the most votes in the closely watched Iowa contest. Strawn said on Thursday that Rick Santorum won the most certified votes -- 34 more than Mitt Romney did, as it turns out.
On caucus night, however, the Iowa Republican Party said that Mitt Romney was leading Santorum by 8 votes, giving Romney bragging rights going into New Hampshire.
On Thursday, Strawn told Fox News that eight volunteer-led precincts just "weren't able to get their forms in."
"I can't speak to why they weren't responding to the calls of our staff," he said -- a full two weeks after those phone calls went unanswered.
Strawn says his job is to "certify as many precincts as possible and provide accurate information." He said he'll let the pundits and campaign officials "spin the results however they want."
Strawn says each of Iowa's 1,774 precincts receives a "Form E," which is the official record of the vote total in that precinct. The Form E is signed by the caucus chairman and secretary, then delivered to the county chairman, who is supposed to gather "Form E's" from all the precincts in his or her county -- and send them on Republican headquarters so the vote totals can be certified.
"Sometimes the county chair never heard from the precinct chair," Strawn explained. "In one county, we have a precinct chair that submitted a blank form that had nothing on it. There was no record to certify.
"You know, he continued, "it's a great process, it's a grassroots process that's run by volunteers, and unfortunately we did everything we could in our power to try and get those precinct leaders to submit their forms on time. But, you know, they just weren't able to," Strawn said.
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.
A statement on Rick Santorum’s Web site says the certified results from Iowa have destroyed the “narrative” of Romney’s “inevitability.”
“Conservatives can now see and believe they don't have to settle for Romney, the Establishment's moderate candidate,” the statement says.
“This latest defeat of Governor Romney in Iowa is just the beginning, and Rick Santorum is committed to continuing the fight as the clear, consistent conservative voice in this race.”