Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results

Weeks after House Republicans lost their majority, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea 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 John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty 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 WaltersGOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results MORE, Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE, Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Ex-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE and Steve KnightStephen (Steve) Thomas KnightRepublican fighter pilot to challenge freshman Dem in key California race Freshman Dem endorses Harris’s 2020 bid GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority MORE and won seats held by retiring GOP Reps. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference MORE and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Issa says he will run for Congress if not confirmed to trade post by Nov. 3 The Hill's Campaign Report: Pressure builds for Democrats who missed third debate cut MORE. GOP Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoCalifornia Republican ousted in 2018 announces rematch for House seat The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown 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 BecerraTrump administration rolls back Obama-era lightbulb rules 20 states sue Trump administration over Flores rule California leads states in lawsuit over Trump public charge rule 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.