Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, right, wears his “Trump” mask as he waits while Secretary of State Michael Watson tends to the official duties overseeing the casting of Mississippi’s votes in the electoral college at the state Capitol in Jackson on Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Michael Watson defended the presidential electoral college and questioned the validity of election results in other states Monday morning as Mississippi’s six electoral votes were cast for incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Watson, the state’s chief election officer, referred to the electoral college as “a shining example of the brilliance of our founding fathers” as Mississippi joined the nation’s other states and the District of Columbia in meeting Monday to solidify the results of the Nov. 3 general election in which former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump.

Both Reeves and Watson were in attendance Monday as the electors voted in a Capitol committee room known for being the location of a statue of Theodore Bilbo, a former governor and one of the state’s most notorious segregationists.

Under the electoral college process, each state gets the number of electoral votes equaling their two United States senators and their U.S. House members. In Mississippi, like most states, all of its electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.

Watson and Reeves both touted the electoral college for ensuring smaller, less populated states like Mississippi have a larger say in the election of president. Detractors say the electoral college is counter-intuitive to democracy since in recent years the candidate who won the popular vote has not often won the presidency.

For instance, the Democrat has won the popular vote in seven of the last eight elections, but the Republican won the electoral college and thus the presidency in two of those elections.

This year, Biden defeated Trump by more than seven million votes, but was on pace Monday to win the same number of electoral votes — 306 — as Trump won in 2016 when he lost the popular vote by almost three million to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“For those individuals around this county who want to change the electoral college because they believe it will benefit them, I argue… they fundamentally misunderstand the principle we live in a republic not a true democracy because our founding fathers recognized the importance of not only the big states, but the small states as well,” Reeves said. Reeves said elimination of the electoral college would “disenfranchise” Mississippi voters.

Reeves and Watson both defended a lawsuit entered into by state Attorney General Lynn Fitch to throw out millions of ballots in four key swing states in an effort to throw the election to Trump. The lawsuit was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the electoral college vote, Reeves cited “a safe and fair election here in Mississippi — not upended by last-minute schemes to radically alter voting methods. Election integrity is vital.”

Reeves and Watson voiced frustration with the judiciary for putting in place election changes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that violated the Constitution. But they offered no examples that would have changed the results in any of the swing states that gave the election to Biden.

Mississippi’s vote of the electors — all white males — was uneventful. The six electors, all chosen by the state Republican Party since Trump won Mississippi, were Frank Bordeaux, John Dane III, Francis Lee, Terry Reeves, E. Bruce Martin and Johnny McRight.

Bordeaux is the newly elected chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. Lee is one of Reeves’ largest individual political contributors. Terry Reeves is the governor’s father.

The governor said it was a testament to the country that his father, who grew up one of 11 children in a two-bedroom home in Lincoln County, could be an elector for the president.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.