AUGUSTA, Maine — Two years after turning the idea down, Maine lawmakers will be asked again this week to endorse a plan to elect the president by popular vote.
The bill has the support of the speaker of the House, among other influential lawmakers, but its thin 7-6 vote of support from the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee leaves its prospects for final passage uncertain at best.
The proposal says that in a presidential election, all four of Maine’s electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The bill would take effect only after being enacted by states possessing enough total electoral votes to elect a president — 270.
Maine could become the sixth state to adopt the idea, which already has been enacted in New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Washington and Hawaii. In northern New England, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed a bill in 2008. No bill is pending in New Hampshire.
The Maine Legislature turned down a similar bill in 2008. The measure was back again last year, then shelved at the end of the session to be taken up this year.
“People want their vote to count in the same way as every other state,” Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree, a supporter, said Monday. The North Haven Democrat said the idea that a president can win the majority of votes but lose in the electoral count, as has happened as recently as 2000, “is insane to voters.”
Opponents say shifting to the proposed system would discourage presidential candidates from visiting smaller states such as Maine, and instead concentrate on more heavily populated states before elections. They also say the interests of states that have not endorsed the popular vote could greatly diminish.
Anthony Corrado, a political science professor at Colby College in Maine, told the committee that there are constitutional questions whether a proposed national popular vote compact among states would be enforceable in the instance of a presidential election.
A legislative vote in Maine could come as early as today but more likely would come up later in the week after lawmakers get a chance to discuss it informally.