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Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results

Weeks after House Republicans lost their majority, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday cast serious doubts about the “bizarre” election system in California, where it appears that seven GOP-held seats will flip to Democratic control.

The California election system “just defies logic to me,” Ryan said during a Washington Post event.

“We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race. This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is.”

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It was a remarkable comment from the retiring Speaker of the House, who until now had not joined President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE and other Republicans who have complained about what they believed were election irregularities in places like Florida and California.

After this story was published, Ryan campaign spokesman Jeremy Adler said in a statement: "The Speaker did not and does not dispute the results" of the election.

California does have a more liberal policy when it comes to counting ballots. The Golden State allows absentee ballots to be counted if they are mailed by Election Day and arrive at the registrar by the Friday after the election. That’s why results in a handful of close California House races were not called until days, or weeks, after Nov. 6.

In many cases, the GOP candidates had been leading on election night, but Democrats ultimately prevailed as additional absentee and provisional ballots were tallied in the days after.

“In Wisconsin, we knew the next day. Scott Walker, my friend, I was sad to see him lose, but we accepted the results on Wednesday," Ryan said. In California, “their system is bizarre; I still don’t completely understand it. There are a lot of races there we should have won.”

When pressed about his California comments, Ryan said it seemed “bizarre” and “strange” that Democrats would win all seven competitive House races in California. Democrats ousted GOP Reps. Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersFormer GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company GOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE, Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success GOP's Steel wins California House race after Democrat Rouda concedes MORE, Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBusiness groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government Ex-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme Bottom line MORE and Steve KnightStephen (Steve) Thomas KnightThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Pelosi touts T bill as Fauci stresses go-slow openings The Hill's Campaign Report: A Los Angeles House seat is in play for Republicans Democrats on edge over California special election nail-biter MORE and won seats held by retiring GOP Reps. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Top donor allegedly sold access to key politicians for millions in foreign cash: report Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Gingrich: Trump should attend Biden inauguration Rep.-elect Issa says Trump should attend Biden inauguration MORE. GOP Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoScars of Capitol attack permeate high-security inauguration Upton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? MORE is trailing Democrat TJ Cox, but the race is too close to call.

“The way the absentee-ballot program used to work, and the way it works now, it seems pretty loosey goose,” Ryan said. “When you have candidates who win the absentee ballot vote and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre. I just think that’s a very, very strange outcome.”

Ryan, who is leaving Congress in early January, made clear that he doesn't believe there was "anything nefarious" about the results. He said he would not ask California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court strikes down Trump coal power plant rule | Green groups sue after Trump administration strips bird protections | Trump administration rushes to wrap Arctic oil leases on last day in office 15 states sue EPA over decision not to tighten pollution standard for smog 13 states sue EPA over rule allowing some polluters to follow weaker emissions standards MORE, a former Democratic House lawmaker, to investigate.

 

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat who oversees elections there, aggressively pushed back on Ryan's complaints.

“It is bizarre that Paul Ryan cannot grasp basic voting rights protections,” Padilla said in a statement to The Hill. “It shouldn’t 'defy logic' that elections officials are meticulous in counting every eligible ballot. California works to ensure every ballot is counted properly and every ballot is accounted for. In the most populous state in the nation — and the state with the largest number of registered voters — this takes time."

“In California, we believe in an inclusive and accessible democracy. We provide voters as many opportunities as possible to cast their ballots,” Padilla's statement continues. “That is why we have no excuse vote by mail, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and early voting. These reforms helped drive California’s historic registration and a 30 year high in midterm turnout."

"I stand with the thousands of elections officials and volunteers throughout the state who continue to work around the clock to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our elections.”

This story was updated at 1:02 p.m.