Maine OKs Democratic-led effort to ditch Electoral College

The pact needs at least 270 Electoral College votes to be activated.
Woman votes, Denver, Colo., Nov. 8, 2022

(The Center Square) — Maine lawmakers are moving toward joining a Democratic-led multi-state compact that calls for scrapping the Electoral College system to elect presidents.

The state Legislature narrowly approved a proposal to ratify the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact this week, assigning the state's Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote instead of the winner in its two congressional districts.

If Gov. Janet Mills approves the legislation, Maine would join 16 other states that have ratified the compact, representing 205 Electoral Votes. The pact needs at least 270 Electoral College votes to be activated.

Democrats who pushed the bill through the House and Senate argued that switching to a popular vote system would make Maine and other smaller states more relevant in presidential elections.

"The way states award electoral votes today is creating problems for our nation," state Rep. Arthur Bell, D-Yarmouth, said in recent testimony supporting the bill. "The current system has elected the second-place candidate twice in our lifetimes and five times in the country's history. Five out of 46 presidents is a pretty bad error rate. Elevating the 2nd place candidate erodes trust in our democratic system."

Most Republican lawmakers voted against joining the compact, arguing that it would circumvent the U.S. Constitution and diminish the state's influence in presidential elections.

In a statement, House Republicans blasted the measure's approval, saying it shows that Democrats "do not care about everyday Mainers, their rights, their opinions, or their protections under the U.S. Constitution."

"They have surrendered Maine’s ability to help choose a President to large urban states like California and New York," the lawmakers said. "Democrats seem unconcerned that Maine will no longer receive attention from presidential candidates despite only having 4 electoral votes."

The GOP lawmakers said the proposal "invites chaos in the event of a national recount and more litigation" and said it would mean blue states California and New York "will now dominate our presidential elections at the expense of smaller, rural states." They predicted the pact would be deemed unconstitutional, if ratified by the states.

The move to upend the Electoral College comes ahead of a contentious presidential election that could be decided in a handful of states — including Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania — where Trump currently leads Biden in the polls.

Maine divides its four Electoral College votes between its two congressional districts, often splitting the vote in presidential elections. In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump peeled away the largely rural 2nd Congressional District from Democrat Hillary Clinton, winning one electoral vote, while Clinton won the statewide race and the 1st District, giving her the state's other three electoral votes.

Trump carried the 2nd District handily in the 2020 elections, cinching one the state's four electoral votes. The other three votes went to Democrat Joe Biden, who went on to win the presidency.

Mills, a Democrat, has 10 days to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without her signature.