AUGUSTA — House lawmakers reversed course Wednesday and voted to add Maine to the growing list of states pushing to switch to a national popular vote in presidential elections.

The 77-69 vote in the Maine House came roughly two weeks after the national popular vote bill had failed by a 10-vote margin but after the Maine Senate had reaffirmed its support for the measure. The fate of the bill remains unclear, however, because it faces additional procedural votes in both the House and Senate.

The bill would add Maine to the growing list of states pledging to use the national popular vote, rather than the Electoral College system, to choose a president.

Participating states agree not to begin using the popular vote method until membership in the multistate “compact” represents at least 270 electoral votes, the minimum number needed to win the White House. To date, 14 states plus the District of Columbia – accounting for 189 electoral votes – have joined the interstate compact but lawmakers in more than a half-dozen additional states are debating the issue.

Maine has four Electoral College votes.

Bill supporters argue that the Electoral College is archaic, pointing to the 2000 and 2016 elections as evidence that the system can subvert the will of the majority of voters. Opponents contend the Electoral College ensures that smaller states such as Maine have a voice in presidential elections and that choosing a president via popular vote would allow candidates to focus all of their campaigning on large states or cities.

The bill, L.D. 816, now goes back to the Senate for a final enactment vote but will also need to pass the House again before being sent to Gov. Janet Mills for her consideration.

 

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