It was before 10 p.m. when it became clear that Kootenai County’s votes didn’t matter in Tuesday’s Idaho Republican caucus.
And the only thing Kootenai County Republicans had decided was that former Louisana Gov. Buddy Roemer wouldn’t be their choice.
Results from other counties showed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would win enough votes regardless of Kootenai County to win all 32 of the state’s delegates.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Kootenai County Republican Chairwoman Tina Jacobson, who said results shouldn’t have been released in ways to interfere with ongoing caucuses.
After four rounds of voting, Kootenai County Republicans finally selected former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum about 12:15 a.m.
The statewide result weren’t announced as voting continued in the Lakeland High School gym in Rathdrum, where about 800 of the nearly 3,800 participants in the county’s caucuses gathered. About 1,000, however, left after the first round of voting, and another 1,000 left after the second.
They lined up, row by gymnasium row, showed their red wristbands to party volunteers, and dropped ballots behind a curtain into one of five boxes representing the candidate they wanted to lead the nation.
Jacobson waited in the Lakeland gym to receive the results from each location by phone. But they were slow coming, and there was a lot of waiting.
“It’s going to get ugly,” Jacobson told her colleagues as time passed.
The wait in the early rounds was mostly filled by participants who took the mic to make pitches for their candidates.
Many Republicans patiently stuck with the process, but more seats emptied after each round.
“I thought it was good, but when you start at 7 o’clock at night, you don’t have eight hours to do it,” said Dee Ann Rice, who chose Paul in the first round but left after that. “We have to get up real early to go to work.”
Word eventually leaked to many in the room that the delegates were no longer at stake, but Dorene Russell, a Santorum supporter, said she would stay until the end “just to make a statement” and to “outlast the young Ron Paul supporters.”
“It’s definitely an endurance test,” she said. “I can’t say it’s been a blast, but I’ve met some nice people.”
The complicated process included multiple voting rounds in which the last-place candidate and candidates receiving less than 15 percent of the vote were eliminated.
In round one, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich barely broke 15 percent and that meant only Roemer, who received 8 votes out 3,800, was eliminated for round two.
In the first round, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum topped the list with 1,327 votes. Texas Congressman Ron Paul had 989. Romney had 881 and Gingrich had 570.
In round two, Santorum won again with 1,137. Paul had 740. Romney had 534 and Gingrich was eliminated with only 201.
Santorum also won round three with 779 votes. Paul had 542 and Romney had 248.
That sent Santorum and Paul to a final round face-off. Santorum took 674 votes. Paul took 496.
Paul had the most vocal supporters at the event. A few walked around the gym with giant pictures of Paul’s smiling face on a stick.
“He seems to the one candidate who would make a substantial difference,” said Bill Connelly, of Rathdrum. “The others seem to be par for the course.”
Russell, of Hayden, said while she likes a lot of Paul’s thoughts on domestic issues, she believes his foreign policy ideas are “naïve.”
She cast her support to Santorum.
“I like his traditional, conservative values,” she said.