July 22, 2019
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Maine House reverses itself again to oppose effort to link Electoral College to 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 December 2016.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Democratic-led Maine House of Representatives rejected a bill on Monday to join an interstate effort to turn the Electoral College into a majority way to elect presidents in a second reversal on the measure that will kill it barring another flip.

The proposal from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, passed the Senate in mid-May and had been seesawing between passage and rejection in the lower chamber during the past month amid opposition from Republicans gearing up to back the 2020 re-election campaign of Donald Trump, the fifth president to be elected while losing the popular vote.

It failed in an initial 76-66 vote in the House last month, then the chamber endorsed it in a 77-69 vote after seven Democrats flipped their positions last week. But it is on track to die after Monday’s 79-68 vote in the House, when 20 Democrats voted with Republicans against it.

That included six Democrats who flipped relative to the last vote, including Majority Leader Matt Moonen of Portland and Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford, who had backed the measure until Monday. Gov. Janet Mills, also a Democrat, hadn’t taken a stance on the bill.

Jackson’s measure could face further action in both chambers, but it will die between the House and Senate if Monday’s result holds. The compact would effectively subvert the Electoral College — which now gives outsized influence to smaller states by apportioning electors based on the members of a state’s congressional delegation — by turning it into a majority system.

Member states would agree to award electors based on the winner of the national popular vote. To date, 16 jurisdictions representing 196 electors have voted to join. The effort wouldn’t take effect until it reaches 270 electors, the number needed to create an Electoral College majority.

Supporters have argued that candidates now have little reason to pay attention to small states during general elections and instead focus on larger swing states, but Republicans have argued that joining the compact would simply hand a portion of Maine’s influence to larger states.

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