September 19, 2019
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Maine House rejects effort to link Electoral College to national popular vote

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Betty Johnson, president of the Maine electors of the Electoral College, confers with Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap during the casting of ballots for president and vice president of the United States at the State House in Augusta in this Dec. 19, 2016, file photo.

AUGUSTA, Maine — An interstate bid to undo the Electoral College in its current form by awarding a majority of presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote is in danger of failure in Maine after the House of Representatives rejected it Thursday.

The bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would make Maine join a coalition of 15 jurisdictions that now account for 189 electors, 70 percent of the 270 needed to make the change that requires the coalition to possess a majority of the 538 presidential electors.

It’s a bid to use the Electoral College’s framework to undo the system, which gives outsized influence to smaller states — such as Maine — by apportioning electors based on the number of members of a state’s congressional delegation. Republicans largely oppose the switch.

Five presidents — including Republican Donald Trump — have been elected without winning the national popular vote. Maine is one of two states that awards electors by congressional district, and Trump won one of the state’s four electors from the more rural 2nd District in 2016.

The bill passed the Senate in a narrow vote earlier this month with two Democrats voting against it, but it failed in the House in a 76-66 vote Thursday, with 21 Democrats breaking ranks with most of their party to oppose the proposal. Eight of them were from the 2nd District, which gave an electoral vote to Trump in 2016.

The bill is unlikely to affect Trump’s 2020 re-election race against one of a Democratic field of more than 20 candidates. Trump visited Maine five times during his campaign. In 2016, Maine’s population accounted for four-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. population, though its four presidential electors made up roughly seven-tenths of 1 percent of the total Electoral College.

Opponents argued the measure would hand influence to bigger states, and a Republican National Committee spokeswoman spoke against it in an interview with WLOB on Thursday. On the floor, Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, called it “toxic, subversive and reckless,” saying “no one in the House or Senate ran on a platform of abolishing the Electoral College.”

“If a candidate had run on destroying the Electoral College and giving Maine’s votes to New York City, they would have been laughed off the campaign trail and most certainly would not have been elected,” he said.

Proponents of the bill argued that presidential candidates now have an incentive to focus on larger swing states and have little reason to visit small states. Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, who backed the bill, said she believes her vote “is not worth more nor is it worth less than any other adult American.”

The bill faces further action in both legislative chambers, and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills hasn’t taken a stance on the bill, according to Lindsay Crete, her spokeswoman.

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