California’s top election official defends vote count that Paul Ryan calls ‘bizarre’
‘It shouldn’t ‘defy logic’ that elections officials are meticulous in counting every eligible ballot,’ Alex Padilla says
The Mercury News
California’s top election official defended the state’s ongoing vote tally Thursday after outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan called it “bizarre” that ballots counted sometimes weeks after Election Day flipped Republican-held congressional seats to Democrats.
Ryan, R-Wis., said during a Washington Post event Thursday that California’s election apparatus “just defies logic to me.”
“We had a lot of wins that night, and three weeks later we lost basically every contested California race,” Ryan continued, according to the Post.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in response that “it is bizarre that Paul Ryan cannot grasp basic voting rights protections.”
California in recent years has adopted a number of measures to accommodate voters that delay results, including accepting ballots postmarked on Election Day that arrive by the following Friday and allowing voters to register at the polls.
“It shouldn’t ‘defy logic’ that elections officials are meticulous in counting every eligible ballot,” Padilla said. “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.”
A spokesman later clarified to The Hill that Ryan, who is retiring, “does not dispute the results” of the election in which Democrats appear to have gained 40 seats to retake control of the House of Representatives.
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 14: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, June 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Those include seven GOP-held districts in California that had gone for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race where the incumbents were seen as vulnerable. This week, Democrat TJ Cox edged ahead of Republican incumbent David G. Valadao by 529 votes in a Central Valley district south of Fresno where the three-term congressman had been ahead by seven percentage points on Election Night and the Associated Press had projected him the winner.
Democrats also pulled off a historic sweep in Orange County, leaving the GOP stronghold without a Republican in Congress for the first time in more than 80 years, after lottery winner Gil Cisneros came from behind to defeat former Assemblywoman Young Kim in a race that wasn’t decided until 11 days after Election Day.
In all, the result halved the Republican presence among California’s 53-member House delegation from 14 to seven.
“I still don’t completely understand it,” Ryan said. “There are a lot of races there we should have won.”
Ryan said that while he wasn’t suggesting anything “nefarious,” he found the reversal of several races “a very, very strange outcome.”
“The way the absentee-ballot program used to work, and the way it works now, it seems pretty loosey-goose,” he said.
Ryan also echoed complaints from other Republicans, including Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker, of “ballot harvesting,” when a voter hands over a completed ballot to a third party to be cast for them, according to the Post. This was the first year the practice was legal in California.
“This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is,” Ryan said.
Padilla said in response that “in California, we believe in an inclusive and accessible democracy.”
“We provide voters as many opportunities as possible to cast their ballots,” Padilla said. “That is why we have no-excuse vote by mail, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and early voting.”
Last undecided House race is in California; here’s the latest midterm tally
Padilla said those “reforms helped drive California’s historic registration and a 30-year high in midterm turnout.” Republicans now make up less than 25 percent of the state’s registered voters.
Ryan is hardly the only one to question California’s election regime. Republican President Donald Trump has suggested — without evidence — that illegal votes helped put the heavily Democratic state in rival Clinton’s column in 2016.
This week, the Election Integrity Project California, a nonprofit that describes itself as a nonpartisan election oversight group, raised questions about what it called the state’s “shape-shifting” voting results in the June primary. The group cited discrepancies in totals of poll and mail ballots cited by the state and by four Southern California counties.
For example, the group said Los Angles County reported a total of 825,427 poll ballots and 665,075 mail ballots on June 29, but the state’s VoteCal records on Oct. 17 showed 669,448 poll ballots and 798,753 mail ballots.
Linda Paine, the group’s president, said in a statement that “inconsistencies in the reporting of votes makes it impossible for citizen groups like EIPCa to independently validate the results of elections.
“California voters deserve to know that their votes are accurately counted and accounted for,” she added. “EIPCa will continue to seek answers from election officials.”
Padilla’s office had no immediate response to the group’s claims. But in his response to Ryan, Padilla said that “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.”