Maine Senate backs push to replace Electoral College with national popular vote

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Maine electors of the Electoral College (from left) Diane Denk, David Bright and Richard Bennett hand their secret ballots to pages as they vote for president of the United States at the State House in Augusta, Dec. 19, 2016. The four electors cast three ballots for Hillary Clinton and one for Donald Trump.
The move would use the Electoral College to effectively undermine it by awarding electors based on the winner of the national popular vote.
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AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate voted narrowly on Tuesday to join an interstate effort that would aim to undo the Electoral College in its current configuration by awarding presidential electors based on the national winner of the popular vote.

The bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, passed the Senate in a 19-16 vote on Tuesday and faces further action in both chambers. If it becomes law, Maine would join 15 other jurisdictions in an interstate compact aimed at electing presidents by popular vote.

Presidential elections are decided by the Electoral College, which gives small states an outsized influence by apportioning electors based on the members of a state’s congressional delegation. Five presidents — including Republican Donald Trump — have been elected without winning the popular vote. Maine is one of two states to award electors by congressional district.

The compact that Maine could join would use the Electoral College to effectively undermine it, with states agreeing to award their electors based on the winner of the national popular vote.

It would only take effect if states with enough electors to decide a presidential election adopt it. The jurisdictions that have adopted it now account for 189 electors, which is 70 percent of the 270 votes needed to create a majority of the 538 members of the Electoral College.

Proponents have argued that candidates have little reason to pay attention to small states during general elections and instead focus on larger swing states. Conservative opponents including the Maine Heritage Policy Center have said joining the compact would give Maine less say in the outcome. Trump campaigned in Maine five times and won the 2nd District’s one electoral vote.

Jackson’s measure initially passed in a largely party-line vote on Tuesday, with all Senate Democrats voting for it except for Erin Herbig of Belfast and Bill Diamond of Windham, who voted with Republicans against it. It now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass.

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Correction: A photo caption in an earlier version of this report misspelled Diane Denk’s last name.

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