The candidate who gets the most votes should win.

That shouldn’t be a controversial statement, but when it comes to the U.S. presidential election, it is – mostly because the race has become infused with the same partisanship present just about everywhere else in politics.

Instead of making common-sense changes to how we select the most powerful person in the world, we’re left stuck with the anti-democratic Electoral College — and millions upon millions of voters whose voices don’t really count.

That’s why we support Maine joining the National Popular Vote Compact, which would award the state’s four votes in the Electoral College to whichever candidate gets the most votes nationwide.

Seventeen states have already joined the agreement, bringing to the table 205 electoral votes. The compact will only go into effect once enough states have agreed to send 270 electoral votes to the candidate with the highest nationwide total — the number necessary to win.

A bill to join the agreement is now before the Legislature: L.D. 1578, from Rep. Arthur Bell, D-Yarmouth, and co-sponsored by Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta.


The issue has been debated in Maine before. When a similar bill was debated 2019, this Editorial Board was concerned about taking this round-about way to institute a national popular vote. We worried about how it would look if it passed mostly along partisan lines, and wondered what would happen in a competitive multi-candidate race.

Now, however, we’re more concerned about a system that regularly hands the presidency to the less popular candidate. It distorts democracy when so much emphasis is put on a few battleground states, encouraging cut-throat (even criminal) activities in those crucial elections.

But most of all, we feel that it’s about time the president is chosen by the fairest and most democratic means of all, where everyone votes and the candidate with the most wins.

The Electoral College is a relic. It’s the result of a compromise that had a lot to do with 18th-century America and has very little to do with how the country operates today. There’s no good reason to keep it.

Critics argue that choosing the president by popular vote would put small states like Maine at a disadvantage, instead favoring places with large populations where candidates would spend most of their time.

A national popular vote would change candidates’ behavior, yes, but likely for the better. Sure, candidates would be tempted to go where the people are, but they would also be encouraged to go out to a bigger variety of states and communities.


As it stands, candidates focus on just a few battleground states. In 2020, according to National Popular Vote, 96% of general-election campaign events for major party presidential candidates occurred in just 12 states. Every one of the 212 events were in just 17 states. Unsurprisingly, ad spending fell along the same lines.

Pennsylvania alone hosted 47 general-election events, 22% of the total, while California, our most populated state, got none; the 11.1 million Californians who voted for President Biden were largely taken for granted.

And the 6 million who voted for Donald Trump in California were ignored. That’s more Republicans than are found in Texas or Florida, yet their wishes and needs were not counted in the electoral tally.

The winner-takes-it-all approach for electoral votes is anti-democratic in more ways than one. In Texas, for example, Biden earned more than 46% of the vote, the highest percentage for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. Yet every one of the state’s 38 electoral votes went to Trump, and the voices of those Biden voters were all but silenced.

The same can be said for Trump in places like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin, where the margins were razor-thin yet all electoral votes went to Biden.

Even in Maine, where we dole out votes by congressional district, the allocation isn’t much better. Trump won 44% of the votes here, yet only received 25% of our four electoral votes.

This year, somewhere around 150 million Americans will cast a vote for president. Most will do so without ever having the Republican or Democratic nominee visit their state. More will have their vote ignored by candidates who don’t need it or taken for granted by candidates who expect it no matter what.

By 2028, we can change that, finally ensuring each vote truly counts.

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