One in a frequent series of stories examining Maine’s voting system.

Record numbers of voters cast ballots last week in the race between Republican President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. But the final say on the matter in Maine won’t come until December.

 

That’s when those designated to cast Maine’s four Electoral College votes are expected to convene at the State House to formalize and finalize voters’ decisions.

Some Republicans loyal to Trump, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have implied the Republican Party may challenge the Electoral College process by contesting the certification of election results in certain states. That could create political or legal turmoil and prompt Republican-controlled legislatures to designate new Trump-friendly electors.

Here’s what you need to know about the Electoral College in Maine, where Democrats now control the State House:

How are electors for the Electoral College chosen in Maine?

Electoral College electors are chosen at the state conventions of the parties with candidates on the ballot. Both of the state’s major political parties – Democrats and Republicans – selected their electors in May. Those chosen must pledge to vote for their party’s candidate based on the popular vote in Maine. A person who holds a federal office is disqualified from being an elector.

Why does Maine only get four Electoral College votes?

Each state’s electoral votes are equivalent to the number in its congressional delegation – which is determined by the state’s population based on the U.S. Census. All states get a vote for each of their two U.S. senators and one vote for each of their U.S. House districts.

Does the candidate who won the popular vote get all four of Maine’s Electoral College votes?

No. Maine is one of only two states, the other being Nebraska, that splits its electoral votes based on the outcome of the presidential voting in each of its congressional districts. Maine allocates one vote for each of its two congressional districts and two “at-large” votes to the statewide winner of the popular vote.

Other states use a winner-take-all system, meaning the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote gets all of that state’s electoral votes.

Does that mean Joe Biden won’t get all four of Maine’s electoral votes?

That’s right. While unofficial results show Biden defeated Trump statewide, winning 53 percent of the vote or about 70,000 more than Trump, he will receive only three electoral votes from Maine. One will be for the state’s 1st Congressional District, where Biden handily beat Trump with 60 percent of the vote, and two will be for winning statewide. Trump, who won Maine’s 2nd District with 52 percent of the vote, or about 30,000 more than Biden, will be awarded one electoral vote from Maine.

Are Maine’s electors required to cast their votes for the candidates they are pledged to?

Yes. Maine is one of 32 states and the District of Columbia that seek to prevent so-called “faithless electors” with laws binding electors to their party’s candidate. If the electors fail to do so, they could be fined. Several states where Republicans have disputed the accuracy of election results are not among the states that legally bind electors to candidates. These include Pennsylvania, which has a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature; and Georgia, which has a Republican governor and Legislature.

Has there ever been a faithless elector in Maine?

No. But in 2016 David Bright, an elector for the Maine Democratic Party, decided to cast an electoral vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, instead of national party nominee Hillary Clinton, who won Maine’s 1st District and the vote statewide. Bright argued that Sanders had won the party’s caucus in Maine and that he wanted to show newly enrolled Democratic voters he was listening to them. Bright was ultimately ruled out of order, and in a second vote cast his ballot for Clinton.

Will the COVID-19 pandemic impact any of this?

Like everything else these days, the proceedings will likely be affected by COVID-19.

Maine’s Electoral College balloting typically takes place before a joint session of the Maine Legislature in the chambers of the House of Representatives, with the governor also in attendance. But whether Maine’s Electoral College electors meet at the State House in Augusta or another location will be decided by the Legislature’s incoming presiding officers and members of the Legislative Council.

The presiding officers, the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, will be elected by lawmakers on Dec. 2, when the new Legislature is sworn in at the Augusta Civic Center – which is being used to provide enough social distancing space to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

So, who will actually be casting the electoral votes for Maine this year?

The electors selected by their respective parties include various party officials and activists, lawmakers and former lawmakers. Sometimes electors are replaced just prior to the balloting, if they are unable to attend or object to casting a ballot for their pledged candidate.

This year the Republican elector slated to cast the vote for Trump is Oxford resident Peter Laverdiere. Democrats who were selected to cast ballots for Biden are state Sen. Shenna Bellows of Manchester, Jay Philbrick of North Yarmouth and Bright, who lives in Dixmont.

When does this happen?

State law requires the electors to meet at 2 p.m. on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year that’s Dec. 14. Electoral College electors in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia will also meet and cast their ballots that day.

What happens after they vote?

A certification of the ballot results is then transmitted to several state and federal officials, including the president of the U.S. Senate, who is also the vice president of the United States. That copy is used for the official count by Congress later in the process. Other copies go to each state’s secretary of state, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the presiding federal judge in the district where the electors met, as a backup copy. The deadline for states to have their votes delivered to Congress is Dec. 23.

When is it finally over?

On Jan. 6, a joint session of Congress will meet to determine the winner of the Electoral College vote, who will then be sworn in as president during the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

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