All three Mississippi Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were among the several House Republicans on Wednesday to object to the certification of the electoral college votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania, states that duly elected Democrat Joe Biden as president in November over Republican President Donald Trump.
Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo — all ardent supporters of Trump — backed the failed effort of lawmakers who aimed to overturn Biden’s victory by pushing disproven theories and inaccuracies about Arizona and Pennsylvania botching the election process.
Mississippi’s Republicans were among 121 House Republicans who objected to the electoral vote of Arizona and among 138 House Republicans who objected to the Pennsylvania electoral vote.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democrat in Washington, voted to certify all 50 states. Before their votes late Wednesday night, Kelly and Guest had previously acknowledged that Biden had won the election.
“The United States Constitution gives state legislatures the exclusive jurisdiction to determine how elections will be conducted, commonly referred to as the Electors Clause,” Guest said in a statement after the vote. “Simply put, these states failed to conduct elections that followed the requirements set up by their state legislatures and outlined in our Constitution.”
By Thursday morning, Kelly and Palazzo had not yet publicly justified why they voted the way they did.
In the Senate, Mississippi’s U.S. senators split in the electoral challenges. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith voted with the small minority to reject the votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Republican Sen. Roger Wicker voted with 94 of his colleagues to certify the results in all 50 states.
“(The Trump) campaign lost a close election, and it is time to acknowledge that,” Wicker said in a statement earlier this week. “The president’s own attorney general, his head of election security, and a number of Trump-appointed, conservative federal judges all have found that, despite widespread allegations of fraud, there simply was not enough evidence to change the outcome of the election in any state.”
Wicker continued: “I know many of my fellow Mississippians will disagree with my decision, and I share their commitment to making sure our elections are fair. But I must vote according to my conscience, my oath of office, and my understanding of the rule of law. I hope that with the start of a new Congress, we can take steps to restore faith in America’s electoral system.”
Congress met in joint session on Wednesday and early Thursday to certify the electoral votes from the states. Biden, a Democrat, received 306 of the 538 elector votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Though the certification of the electoral votes from the states is normally a formality, the law allows Congress to reject them and theoretically select the new president.
Republicans did not have nearly enough votes in the House or Senate to reject the Biden election, and constitutional scholars questioned whether Congress could overturn the results in the first place.
A group of House and Senate Republicans — ardent supporters of Trump, who has for weeks pushed disproven theories about widespread election fraud — indicated last week they would challenge those electoral votes from certain states Biden won.
But the proceedings were abruptly halted on Wednesday afternoon when a violent mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, aiming to overturn the results of the election.
The pro-Trump rioters — incited earlier Wednesday morning by the president’s oldest son and other close allies of the president — assaulted Capitol Police officers, smashed windows and tore down security barricades on their way into the building, prompting officials to lock down both legislative chambers of the building and nearby congressional office buildings.
The moment marked the first time that the Capitol was breached by a large, violent group since the War of 1812. Several high-profile members of Congress were evacuated, and others were told to shelter in place during the hours-long lockdown.
By the time police cleared the Capitol and lawmakers returned to finish the certification process on Wednesday evening, several of the Republicans in both the House and Senate who had earlier planned to object to elector certification reversed their positions.
Many Republicans even called Trump out specifically for inciting the violence.
“The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” said Sen. Kelly Leoffler, a Republican from Georgia who’d previously planned to object. “The violence, the lawlessness… stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect.”