AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate voted Wednesday in support of a multistate plan to sidestep the Electoral College by pledging to support presidential candidates who win the national popular vote.

Final votes on the bill, which was endorsed by the House of Representatives last week, are still needed in both chambers before it’s sent to Gov. Janet Mills, who has not yet weighed in on the idea.

Sponsored by Rep. Arthur Bell, L.D. 1578 would have Maine join an interstate compact with at least 16 other states and Washington, D.C., that pledge their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

The pledges would only take effect when the compact receives 270 Electoral College votes – the number required for a nominee to be elected president. States have committed 205 electoral votes so far.

If Maine joins and the compact gets the required support, Maine would allocate its four Electoral College votes to presidential candidates who win the national popular vote, even if it conflicts with the choice of voters in Maine.

Proponents of the compact have argued that the national popular vote is a better way to elect a president than the Electoral College system, which they say places the focus of presidential candidates on a handful of swing states at the expense of others.


Two of the last four U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, won office despite losing the national popular vote. Hillary Clinton earned about 2.9 million more popular votes than Trump in 2016. Al Gore collected 540,000 more votes nationally than Bush in 2000.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said the compact could be a way to reengage young voters who feel that their vote for president doesn’t really count because of the Electoral College.

“Increasingly, young Americans feel like they’re being left behind, and that’s not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing,” Daughtry said. “When you have an arbitrary system that was created long, long ago, before women had the right to vote, that was literally created to protect our democracy … from folks who were not – I’m just gonna say it – wealthy landowners, you know you don’t necessarily have something that works for our democracy in 2024.”

Opponents, who are mostly Republicans, argued that the Electoral College gives Maine an outsized influence on presidential elections, since it only has about 0.4% of the national population but 0.74% of the Electoral College votes. Republican opponents argued that an interstate compact is unconstitutional and that the only way to address concerns with the Electoral College is through a constitutional amendment.

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said more than 3,400 Maine residents signed a petition opposing the bill. Going against their wishes would only add to suspicion among rural voters in the 2nd Congressional District that Democrats are changing the voting system to marginalize Republicans, he said, pointing to ranked-choice voting and Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ attempt to exclude Donald Trump from the Republican primary ballot.

Brakey noted that Maine is one of two states that split their Electoral College votes between congressional districts, with two votes going to the winner statewide and one to the winner of each congressional district, allowing rural voters in northern Maine to be heard.


“Entering Maine into this national popular vote compact, I believe, would be a tragic betrayal of Maine people,” Brakey said.

Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, opposed the bill for different reasons. He said Maine may only receive partial vote totals from some states, like New York, when determining how to allocate its delegates. He worried that would provide an incentive for some states to enact rules to disadvantage Black voters.

“By joining the national popular vote, Maine not only becomes an accomplice to efforts to suppress votes amongst targeted communities,” Hickman said, “but it may actually incentivize those voter suppression tactics and encourage bad actors in other states to look for other ways to depress the vote in targeted communities across the country outside of battleground states.”

Hickman also pointed to the tense political climate as another reason not to support the bill.

“Mr. President, in this divisive and dangerous political climate, it is neither the time nor the place nor the context to even create the appearance that the Maine Legislature is taking away anyone’s right to vote for the candidate of their choice,” he said.

The Senate voted 22-13 in support of L.D. 1578, with Hickman breaking ranks to oppose and Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, breaking ranks to support it.

It’s unknown whether the governor supports or opposes the bill. A spokesperson said only that Mills has not yet weighed in. Asked if the governor will wait until the bill reaches her desk to decide, Scott Ogden replied, “yes, she will review the bill and make a decision then.”

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