LANSING, Mich. — Michigan GOP officials have voted to change the way they will award 30 delegates from the presidential primary, a day after the tally showed native son Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each getting 15.
The Michigan Republican Party Credentials Committee voted 4-2 Wednesday night to award 16 delegates to Romney and 14 to Santorum.
At issue is the way the party is allocating two delegates.
Twenty-eight of Michigan's delegates were awarded based on the results in each of the state's 14 congressional districts. Two went to the winner of each district. Romney and Santorum each won seven districts, so those 28 delegates were split.
The way the party rules are written, the final two delegates were supposed to be awarded proportionally, based on the statewide vote. That would result in one delegate apiece, giving each candidate a total of 15 delegates.
Instead, the credentials committee said a new rule adopted Feb. 4 was written incorrectly, and the party intended all along to give both delegates to the winner of the statewide vote — in this case, Romney.
The Santorum campaign said it would appeal the ruling and, in an email, referred to the turn of events as an "election scandal."
"Clearly, Romney was very disappointed after spending a fortune to end up with a tie in the delegates in his home state. And now, clearly, somebody is trying to change the rules after the election to help Mitt Romney," said Santorum campaign senior adviser John Brabender.
The change will have little effect on the overall race for delegates. But it would take away Santorum's ability to call the election a tie in the state where Romney's was born.
In the overall race for delegates, Romney now leads with 168, followed by Santorum with 86. Newt Gingrich has 32 delegates and Ron Paul has 19.
Republican National Committee member Saul Anuzis, a Romney supporter and credentials committee member, said the committee was simply going by rule changes it adopted unanimously at a Feb. 4 meeting.
Those changes were never communicated to the campaigns, however, and some party officials were still saying Tuesday that the two at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally.
"Regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to respective campaigns. It is clear now that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee," Anuzis said. "Could you interpret it both ways? Yes. But this is what we decided."
In a slap at Santorum, Anuzis added that "they're asking us now to change our rules to fit their needs."
"It was premature for any candidate to be declaring the delegate count prior to an official announcement by the Michigan Republican Party," he said.
Michigan originally had 59 national convention delegates but lost half by holding its primary ahead of March 6, in violation of national party rules.
On Feb. 7, the Michigan GOP credentials committee issued a memorandum to "interested persons," detailing how the party would award delegates, based on the reduced number.
According to state party rules, the memo said: "At-large delegates and alternates are allocated on a proportional basis of the statewide vote, to presidential candidates receiving at least fifteen percent (15 of the statewide vote. This process of allocation will remain unchanged."
Anuzis denied the change was meant to help Romney specifically, then complained about Santorum inviting Democrats to vote for him in the GOP primary. The roughly 100,000 Democrats who voted were enough to give Santorum victories in five congressional districts, Anuzis said.
Credentials committee member Mike Cox voted against the change because he said the candidates went into Tuesday's election thinking the at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally, not on who won the popular vote.
"I was a Romney surrogate. I'm firmly on his team, but a rule's a rule," Cox said Thursday.
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Noted Brabender: "If the former attorney general of the state votes against it, that should speak for itself, especially if they are a Romney supporter. ... That is the type of thing that happens in Iran but never in America, and somebody needs to get to the bottom of this very quickly."
Michigan GOP rules allow the decision to be appealed to the Credentials Committee, but it's unlikely that will result in Santorum getting back the lost delegate.
The decision also could be challenged at this summer's Republican National Convention.
Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Barks Hoffman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kathybhoffman