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Jefferson County caucus in Hillsboro on March 17

Jefferson County caucus in Hillsboro on March 17. Photo by Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian.

ST. LOUIS • St. Charles County is not the only place where the results of this month's Republican caucuses have been called into question.

The campaigns for Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — who, at many Missouri caucus sites, worked in tandem — have prepared a joint complaint alleging "serious and prejudicial misconduct" at the March 17 gathering in Jefferson County.

Both campaigns have asked that the state party refuse to recognize the delegates elected at the county caucus, who, they say, are loyal to GOP rival Rick Santorum.

"They intentionally tried to alter the outcome of the caucus with dirty tricks," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "It's clearly an egregious example of intentional misconduct from Santorum supporters."

However, the caucus organizer says any mix-up was the result of an innocent mistake — not political calculations.

The complaint, mailed to the state party this week, alleges that Santorum supporters forced a delay at the caucus when they realized they did not have the numbers the control the outcome.

That delay, according to the complaint, was caused by the "intentional removal" of registration documents needed to conduct caucus business.

"Indeed," the complaint says, "the supporters of Rick Santorum held the caucus hostage until they got enough people to leave so they could achieve the result they desired."

The registration papers were returned, according to the complaint, but only "after a substantial portion of the caucus attendees left in frustration, changing the make-up of the electorate" and, the complaint says, leading to an election of a pro-Santorum slate.

The complaint says that delegate voting did not begin until 6:30 p.m., eight and a half hours after the appointed 10 a.m. start time.

"These acts of voter suppression should not and cannot be condoned," the complaint says.

The complaint asks the party not to seat the Jefferson County delegates at Congressional district conventions on April 21, or the statewide meeting on June 2.

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Janet Engelbach, chair of the Jefferson County GOP, acknowledges credentialing info went missing, though not from an attempt to skew caucus results.

The papers, she said, were taken by a volunteer, who had to leave early and inadvertently packed the documents up with her computer.

"It was a mistake," said Engelbach, who, as local party chair, is responsible for arranging the caucus. "It went out the door innocently."

Even if the state party decides not to act on the complaint, the allegations further cement the ignominy associated with Missouri's woebegone role in the GOP primary.

In addition to the taxpayer-funded "beauty contest" on Feb. 7, party leaders last week decided on a do-over of the St. Charles County caucus, where caucus organizers have been criticized over an ill-fated attempt to control the raucous crowd.

The new date of that caucus is April 10.

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