Top Mississippi Republicans Fail to Acknowledge Biden Victory as Fitch Joins Trump Lawsuit

President-elect Joe Biden, seen here speaking alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, won decisive victories in more than enough states to secure the electoral college. President Donald Trump has fueled evidence-free conspiracy theories about election fraud. Photo courtesy President-elect Joe Biden

Two days after all major national networks called the 2020 presidential election for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, none of Mississippi’s top Republican leaders has acknowledged the Democrats’ victory.

Late this afternoon, Mississippi’s Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced that she was joining Donald Trump’s effort to stop Pennsylvania from counting mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day. With 99% of the vote in, Biden leads Trump in that state by about 45,000 votes.

“Today, I joined a coalition of 10 Attorneys General in urging the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be received three days after Election Day, even without postmarks,” Fitch said in a statement. 

Fitch’s decision to join the GOP lawsuit comes despite the fact that Mississippi’s own Republican secretary of state, Michael Watson, allowed mail-in absentee ballots in Mississippi to be counted as long as they were received within five business days of the election, or by tomorrow.

Broad Attempt to Cast Doubt on Biden Victory

The Mississippi attorney general joined the lawsuit along with nine other Republican attorneys general. It is part of Trump’s effort to delegitimize an election in which he is currently behind in the popular vote by nearly 5 million. 

“Courts don’t write the laws, they interpret them, and what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did here was an egregious overreach that needs to be corrected so it doesn’t become precedent,” Fitch said in her statement today.

With Trump becoming the first Republican to lose the states of Georgia and Arizona in decades, the incumbent appears set to lose the electoral college by the same 306-232 margin that Hillary Clinton faced in 2016, although she won the popular vote that year. 

Unlike Clinton, who called to concede the race on the night of the 2016 election with a speech the next morning, though, Trump has not conceded defeat, instead wildly casting around unfounded aspersions on the electoral process.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, left, seen here with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, has signed onto a Supreme Court brief supporting Trump’s attempt to invalidate mail votes in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy Lynn Fitch

Gov. Tate Reeves, an avid Trump supporter who predicted on election night last Tuesday that “we’re going to wake up tomorrow and Donald J. Trump will be re-elected president of the United States,” has stayed mum on the subject since. 

On the federal level, both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, joined all three U.S. House members from their party in a statement that, with no evidence, raised the specter of election fraud.

“Americans should have confidence in our voting system and that all ballots have been submitted correctly and legally. This is precisely what President Trump and his legal team are seeking,” reads the statement, which U.S. House Reps. Steven Palazzo, Michael Guest and Trent Kelly signed onto. 

“Any allegations of voting irregularities, including ballot tampering or voting by ineligible persons, should be investigated and adjudicated to the fullest extent of the law.”

While Trump and some other Republicans across the country have bandied about unfounded allegations, they have presented no evidence to back up their claims. Federal courts have dismissed multiple Trump lawsuits in the days since the election.

Today, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed Trump up, though, saying the incumbent president has a right to challenge the results. He made those comments after a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump appointee.

Thompson ‘Proud’ of Historic Harris Victory

U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only Black or Democratic member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation, is also the lone member to acknowledge Biden and Harris’ win.

“Proud to say that I have witnessed the election of the first African-American President and the first female Vice-President,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, seen here, said he was proud to have witnessed the election of the first Black president and of the first woman vice president. Photo courtesy U.S. House of Representatives

In a statement that same day, Thompson said he looks “forward to working with his administration on pandemic plans, student loan debt, pre-existing health conditions, and stabilizing trade policy.”

Thompson is the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees a number of U.S. agencies including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA and the TSA.

Reeves on Early Voting: ‘Not While I’m Governor’

Though Gov. Reeves has not commented on Biden’s sizable victory in both the popular vote and the electoral college, he did point to the prolonged process of counting ballots in key swing states to justify his continued opposition to universal mail voting and no-excuse-needed early voting.

“Not while I’m governor! Too much chaos. Only way it’d happen is if many Republican legislators override a veto,” he wrote on Facebook on Nov. 5. Notably, Republicans have overridden his vetoes several times over the past year.

Like swing states, Mississippi took days to count most votes, but because Trump and other Republicans won by large margins, there was little suspense or media attention paid to Mississippi’s days-long counting process.

Hundreds of voters waited for two hours last week in a line for The Mark Apartments precinct in Madison County that continued down the road past a strip mall. Photo by Nate Schumann

Secretary Watson told The Washington Post last week that, after seeing the lines across Mississippi on Election Day, he thinks it is time for a “discussion” about expanding early voting in Mississippi.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the Mississippi Free Press reported on multiple concerns about the election, including dozens of last-minute precinct changes as part of the ongoing Mississippi Trusted Elections Project. One Madison County precinct change resulted in a crowded, majority-Black polling place where thousands of voters waited longer than they would have if around 2,500 voters had not been moved out of a majority-white precinct.

Before Election Day, Watson had said he did not expect many long lines. In some parts of the state, voters waited as long as four hours, even lined up along highways with no sidewalk and in ditches.

‘One Can Debate Policy and Still Be Friends’

Like Gov. Reeves, Watson and other top GOP officeholders at the state level have remained silent about the election’s outcome, including Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn.

A few Republican members of the Mississippi House of Representatives have spoken out, though, some positively. House Rep. Jansen Owen, a Republican who represents parts of Lamar and Pearl River counties, paid special attention to Harris as she gave her victory speech on Saturday night.

“There’s a woman standing on a stage tonight as the Vice President-elect of our United States of America. Regardless of one’s political ideology, this moment stands as a testament to our great nation: anything is possible in these United States. God Bless OUR America,” Owen tweeted.

Mississippi Republican House Rep. Jansen Owen, seen here at the Poplarville Courthouse, highlighted the significance of the first woman elected to serve as U.S. vice president. Photo courtesy Rep. Jansen Owen

It earned a like from fellow Rep. Kent McCarty, a Lamar County Republican who, like Owen, is a young freshman in the Legislature who first won election last year.

Former Mississippi House Rep. Robert Foster, who gave up his house seat when he launched a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor in 2019, took umbrage at Owen’s tweet—and McCarty’s liking of it.

“Why don’t you two RINOs be men enough to admit you voted for Kamala? You two will have a lot of explaining to do in your next elections if you try and run as Republicans again,” tweeted Foster, a businessman who runs a family agritourism business in DeSoto County. “You should both just go ahead and switch parties.”

Foster infamously refused to allow Larrison Campbell, a woman reporter then at Mississippi Today, to join him for a campaign “ride-along” reporting trip during his 2019 campaign—even though he allowed a male reporter to do so. He specifically cited her gender, saying, “My Truck My Rules.”

Owen responded to the Saturday-night criticism, with the freshman representative noting that he has a “very conservative” voting record.

“I live in a world where one can debate public policy and still be friends. You don’t—and that’s why you’re on your Christmas tree farm and not Governor of Mississippi. Bye now,” he wrote to Foster.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris declared victory on Saturday with their spouses and families at their side. Photo courtesy President-elect Joe Biden

Rep. McCarty offered his own thoughts shortly afterward.

“I would hope that ALL of us, regardless of party, can acknowledge the historical significance of the daughter of immigrants becoming the VP of the United States. Only in America would that be possible. I’m not sure why that’s controversial,” McCarty wrote.

In early October, McCarty and Owen introduced a bill with Democatic House Rep. Shanda Yates that would have adopted universal, no-excuse in-person absentee voting with photo ID requirements intact. The House did not even consider the bill, though, leaving Mississippi as the only state that did not significantly expand voting opportunities during the pandemic.

‘We Need to Succeed From the Union’

Foster drew support for his reluctance to accept the outcome of the 2020 presidential election from another sitting Mississippi House representative, though. 

Mississippi House Rep. Price Wallace

In one tweet thread, Foster wrote that the United States is “not a democracy” but “a constitutional republic”—referencing an old John Birch Society talking point meant to cast doubt on the value of majoritarian democracy. 

Rep. Price Wallace, a Republican member of the Mississippi House who represents Rankin and Simpson counties and ran for office unopposed in 2019, wrote back.

“We need to succeed from the union and form our own country,” Rep. Wallace wrote, misspelling “secede.”

Foster did not respond.

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