A bid to bring Maine into the group of states that promise to cast their electoral votes for the national popular winner appears to have stalled.

The complex workaround to the Constitution would pledge the states that sign on to a National Popular Vote Compact, promising all their electoral votes to the popular voter winner, regardless of what the voters said at home.

The bill bogged down in the House last week after a spirited debate about whether Mainers would have a greater “voice” in the the outcome of a presidential election if Maine continued to package its four electoral votes for the state’s overall winner (or split them 3-1, as we did in 2016), or if the state used its leverage to make sure that the candidate who got the most votes nationally would be the one who moved into the White House.

The argument that’s carrying the day is that small states like Maine would have no influence on a race decided by a national popular vote, so candidates would never campaign here and would not tailor their policy prescriptions to our needs.

What they don’t say is that’s pretty much already how it works. Maine really doesn’t have much influence on the presidential race, and it shouldn’t. Candidates rarely campaign here, and when they do, they don’t develop policies to suit our needs. In 2016, Donald Trump came to Maine a lot more than most candidates, and raised no local issues. He mostly talked about a wall he wanted to build on the border with Mexico, and he wasn’t trying to keep people from sneaking into Rumford.

Everyone wants to feel important. It hurts when you see all the candidates flock to New Hampshire and say nice things about their tough-minded independence, when we know they are mostly commuters from Massachusetts who don’t want to pay taxes. But the truth is, Maine doesn’t matter much.


Whether we bundle our four electoral votes, distribute them proportionally or pledge them to the winner of the Scripps Spelling Bee, we still make up less than 1 percent of the total, and that’s how much “voice” in the outcome we deserve.

It’s easy to understand why this comes up. Since 2000, Electoral College math has gone from being a weird historical quirk to a very real obstacle to one-person-one-vote democracy. Yes, it was technically possible for a candidate to win the most votes and still lose, but it’s also technically possible for a baseball game to remain tied into infinity. Things usually have a way of working out.

But two of the last five elections have produced popular-vote losers who still won, raising concerns about the legitimacy of our government. How many times are millions of mostly minority voters supposed to accept that the candidate they supported lost the election despite having the most votes? Talk about not having a “voice” in the process. This is the kind of thing that leads to revolutions.

The Electoral College is not the only anti-democratic problem baked into our system. A much bigger one is the Senate, where every state gets two. There’s one U.S. senator for every 650,000 Maine residents, while 20 million Californians have to share each of theirs.

It’s not good, and it’s going to get worse.

Demographers predict that by 2040, 70 percent of the population will live in 15 states. That means that less than a third of the population would be represented by 70 senators. This cannot be what the Founding Fathers had in mind.


Partisan gerrymandering, voter suppression and ideological courts are already concentrating power in the hands of people who don’t have popular support. A question in the U.S. Census about citizenship status has been challenged as an attempt to undercount urban areas, reducing their representation in Congress. This issue will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, where four of the justices were nominated by presidents who received less than half the popular vote and were confirmed by a Senate controlled by a minority of the population.

Since all the imbalances tip their way, Republicans like to claim that these checks on the majority are a virtue of our system, protecting us from mob rule. But even the people who are benefiting now ought to be able to see the danger ahead if we don’t get serious about making sure every vote is counted equally.

There’s a lot that could be done, but giving states like Maine more “voice” in the outcome of presidential elections should not be on the agenda. We have more than we deserve already.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:


Twitter: gregkesich



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