WASHINGTON — Republican Mitt Romney gained ground over rival Ron Paul in a Friday recount of Maine’s GOP presidential caucuses so far, but state party officials still couldn’t guarantee it was an accurate tally.

The state party found about 200 extra votes in the recount, and Romney’s lead increased from 194 votes out of 5,585 cast to Friday’s updated figures of Romney having a 239-vote lead out of 5,814 votes cast.

Saturday’s “official” vote had been challenged because it didn’t include Washington County’s caucuses, which were postponed to today because of a snowstorm. Other communities said they were left out of the count because of clerical or computer errors.

But a town-by-town tally of the recount still lists some towns as having zero votes.

Late Friday, Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster acknowledged that the count still many not be perfect. The results do not include caucuses held after 5 p.m. on Feb. 11, the deadline set by the state party for reporting results, or there could be towns that met and voted on time, but didn’t call in their results.

The state party was unable to contact every single town for the recount because it does not have contact information for the town GOP chairman for every town, Webster said. Instead, the revised tally is based on new numbers from towns and counties that contacted the state party to complain about an error or omission, or towns the state party reached through phone calls or email.

“We made every effort to reach out to every town we could reach,” Webster said. “As far as we know, those are the (correct) numbers.”

Among the changes between original reported results and the recount released Friday:

* In Portland, the state’s largest city, the original tally flipped the votes for Romney and Paul, turning a Paul 106-91 victory over Romney into a Romney win of 106-91 over Paul.

* Waterville and Waldo County were initially reported as having no votes. The recount shows Paul beating Romney 21 to 5 in Waterville, out of 29 total votes cast. In Waldo County, Paul beat Romney 72 to 59 votes.

* In Limington, 20 votes for Paul out of 26 total disappeared in the recount, but all other votes remained the same.

* In Bar Harbor, the state GOP originally said 22 people voted. But in the recount, it says 27 people voted and the five extra votes went to Romney.

* In Trenton, the same thing happened. The state GOP originally said 15 people voted. But in the recount, it says 20 people voted and all five extra votes went to Romney.

* In New Gloucester, the state GOP originally said 74 people voted. Now it says 102 people voted. Nearly all of the extra votes went to Rick Santorum.

This new total sets the stage for today’s caucus meeting in Washington County, which was postponed last Saturday because of a snowstorm.

The Maine GOP initially set a window of Feb. 4-11 for individual caucuses around the state to participate in the official presidential straw poll tally announced last Saturday night at a state party event in Portland.

But the Paul campaign protested last week that not including the Washington County total robbed it of the chance to overtake Romney’s lead.

Then it became evident that the vote totals from several communities, including Waterville and much of Waldo County, were left out of the official count because of clerical or computer errors. Some other communities’ vote totals were entered incorrectly.

Those mistakes now have been corrected, Webster says.

There has been pressure from around the state and the nation to include Washington County’s results, and the full state party committee will formally make that decision when it meets March 10.

Maine’s caucuses, normally a low-profile affair, became a national story when both Romney and Paul campaigned in Maine, even visiting the same caucus in Sanford on Saturday. Romney was looking to stop a three-state losing streak, and Paul was hoping to win his first state.

The state’s 24 delegates to the Republican National Convention won’t be chosen until the state party convention in May, though three of them will be state GOP officials. 1,144 delegates are needed nationally to win the GOP nomination.

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

Twitter: MaineTodayDC

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